Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Manchester United 3
Wolverhampton Wanderers crashed out of the FA Cup with a toothless display against Manchester United.
For the underdog to come out on top in a game like this several things have to happen. It requires a special effort, it needs energy, application, a little luck, and a lot of desire.
It also needs the opposition to have an off day, but in the absence of this, 90 minutes of intense, determined football can sometimes make up for the difference in skill levels.
Unfortunately Wolves displayed none of these qualities and were also let down by another essential ingredient for a cup upset: tactical know-how.
In the third round Burton knew what their limitations were, and they played to them with heart and with belief. For 90 minutes they stood toe-to-toe with Manchester United and fought them every inch.
In contrast Wolves were at first overawed, then toothless, and always out classed, and tactically Glenn Hoddle was found wanting.
With depleted resources, Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to field a central midfield of Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand.
It should have given Wolves the opportunity to control the midfield and with it the tempo of the game.
Hoddle, though, decided to dispense with a midfield. Instead he played Paul Ince in a holding role in front of the back four, leaving Darren Anderton and Mark Kennedy with the task of controlling the midfield. And he played three up front.
It is a tactic that encourages counter-attacking football. It has singularly failed to work on many occasions this season, however, and against a side the calibre of United it was suicide.
By the time Hoddle had acknowledged his mistake and brought on Colin Cameron and Mark Davies for Anderton and the equally ineffectual Seol Ki-Hyeon at the start of the second half, the contest was already over. Kieran Richardson and Louis Saha had effectively settled the tie with well taken goals, albeit ones which Wolves should have dealt with.
Cameron's introduction had some effect and, briefly at the beginning of the second half, Wolves looked like they might make a game of it.
The Scot, a player Wolves may yet still lose in the transfer window, added some bite, and his stinging shot soon after the restart was the first and only time Edwin Van Der Sar was called into action.
United though were never really troubled. They briefly moved into second gear as Wolves tried to assert themselves, and a second goal from Kieran Richardson killed the game completely.
Ji-Sung Park got clear down the right, his cut back found Ruud Van Nistelrooy unmarked in the area, and the Dutchman had the time and vision to chip the ball to Richardson who headed in at the far post.
Hoddle made another two tactical changes as he sought to stem the United tide, but while the visitors eased off, the Wolves boss only succeeded in further confusing his own side and infuriating the crowd.
Ince did his best, as did Kenny Miller, but too often Wolves players found themselves isolated when they got forward.
It had taken the visitors just five minutes to take the lead. Louis Saha got round the side of Wolves left back Lee Naylor, and when his cross was missed by Joleon Lescott, Keiran Richardson made no mistake from 18 yards out, firing the ball low past Stefan Potsma.
Wolves briefly showed flashes of intent. Lee Naylor broke free down the left, and his excellent cross was headed just over by Carl Cort. It was as close as the hosts came in the first half.
This, though, is the FA Cup. While chances might not come along, the least that can be expected is for a side to fight and harry their more
illustrious opponents. Yet Wolves were sluggish off the ball, wasteful in possession and down right confused by Hoddle's frantic signals from the sidelines.
It isn't often that Ferdinand leads a five man counter-attack, but with no midfield to oppose him, he regularly pushed forward. It was only Ince's determination and Postma's skill that kept United at bay.
In that time Shah, Rooney, and Neville were all denied by a combination of last ditch tackles and flying saves.
United finally scored their second on the stroke of half time. It highlighted the poorness of the Wolves display. Vidic punted a long ball, and as the Wolves back four stood and watched, Saha took one touch and fired past Postma.