Landmark Scholes goal at Molineux

Scholes settled a tense encounter at Molineux 17 minutes from time,

when he kept a cool head to beat Marcus Hahnemann after Jody

Craddock’s clearance had fallen nicely for the veteran midfielder.

Sir Alex Ferguson will hope the goal helps persuade Scholes to sign

a one-year contract extension he is presently stalling over.

However, Ferguson will also be fretting on the fitness of Wayne

Rooney after watching Sam Vokes waste a glorious chance to equalise

in stoppage time. Alan Shearer is the loudest voice to claim Rooney

has been carrying United this season, but he certainly is not the

only one to think that way. This was a chance for his team-mates to

prove otherwise, as Rooney did not even make the bench, his manager

rating his talisman “a big doubt” to face AC Milan on Wednesday.

Instead, their efforts merely confirmed Shearer’s view. Isolated up

front, Dimitar Berbatov failed to get involved as Rooney would have

done. After a three-match ban, Nani appeared to have regressed to

his maddening form of old and Antonio Valencia was little better on

the other side. Darron Gibson was the only United player to

threaten the Wolves goal and the Irishman’s efforts were more

typical of a tourist at a seaside shooting gallery, peppering his

shots everywhere without getting close to winning a prize. Gibson’s

best effort was the shot he prodded wide after a poor Nani

free-kick had bounced into his path off Berbatov. It was Wolves,

though, who carried the greater threat. Having angered the Premier

League with his team selection at Old Trafford in the reverse

fixture last December, there was never a chance of Mick McCarthy

leaving players out this time. And why would he? United might have

been aiming for top spot but they have hardly been convincing this

term and on their previous visits to newly-promoted clubs were

beaten at Burnley and only drew at Birmingham. Former Red Devil

David Jones was set up by Matt Jarvis following a forceful run from

the excellent Kevin Doyle and might have tested Edwin van der Sar

had it not been for Michael Carrick’s saving tackle. Stephen Ward

had the golden opportunity though. Jarvis was again the provider,

after darting down the right on the overlap. His deep cross found

Ward completely unmarked and he only had to beat Van der Sar to

score but he nodded tamely straight at the veteran Dutchman. The

introduction of Gary Neville at the break might not have been an

obvious attacking move but the experienced full-back helped his

side get a measure of control for the first time. Patrice Evra and

Michael Carrick both had chances and Jody Craddock also needed to

act fast to rob Berbatov after Wolves had got their offside trap

all wrong as they attempted to defend a Carrick cross. Ferguson was

then deeply unhappy at Nani being flattened by Jody Craddock as he

raced forward trying to support Valencia, who had galloped down the

wing. It was not entirely a one-sided contest. Jarvis flashed a

shot wide after cutting in from the left flank and Nemanja Vidic

was booked for chopping down Karl Henry. But United were the ones

on top, their efforts just emphasising the guile they were missing

in Rooney. In Scholes though, they have a player who will be

remembered years from now, for both invention and goals. Finding

the net has proved a problem in recent seasons for the midfielder.

This year though, there have been signs of that old instinct

returning. And when Craddock drilled Nani’s low cross straight to

the former England man he had the common sense not to rush, instead

nipping past the defender’s desperate lunge before drilling his

shot into the far corner. It brought up his century of Premier

League goals and his 148th overall for United. Far more

importantly, it left them staring down at their rivals from that

familiar position on the Premier League summit. Mame Biram Diouf

could not add to the lead when he failed to find the target with a

free header. But United have flexed their muscles, even if Rooney

will be needed to land the winning punches.