man u beat wolves.jpgWolves did not expect to beat Manchester United on Sunday, but neither did they expect humiliation.

A report that should be all about United stretching their lead over Manchester City to four points and eating up a large chunk of their goals advantage has instead to dwell also on the plight of a club now propelled to the basement of the Premier League with scant hope of redemption.

This contest will surely, if reason is seen, mark the end of caretaker Terry Connor’s unhappy four-match reign in charge during which Wolves have earned just a single point and haplessly conceded 14 goals. But then reason has been scarce at Wolves, who are paying the price for dismissing Mick McCarthy without a replacement ready to take over.

United are shifting through the gears in their run-in while Wolves’ engine has stalled. They played here with 10 men for almost an hour after Ronald Zubar’s stupid sending-off, but that was immaterial as was the fact that the referee who dismissed him, Anthony Taylor, is a resident of Wythenshawe, Manchester, although the Premier League were quick to point out he has a Cheshire postcode and no affiliation to United.

Connor tried to be convincing afterwards, but failed. He spoke of the need to avoid conceding “six, seven, eight” to United once depleted, claimed his side had matched them for 20 minutes and could “eke out” enough points to survive.

“Everyone is writing us off again,” he said. “We have been in this situation before. We have been bottom before and we have managed to get over the dotted line.” His words sounded desperate.

This was a black days for this Black Country club. The Wolves supporters ran the gamut of cruelly ironic chants but it was painful out on the pitch in front of the club’s biggest attendance of the season. Their team really are struggling and relegation is inevitable unless there is the most dramatic of transformations, which can come only with a change of manager. Steve Bruce remains available. Wolves chairman Steve Morgan clapped at the end but it was a hollow gesture.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was full of the kind of understated assessment that oozed sympathy for Connor. Ferguson described his side’s demolition as an “OK” performance and not “anything special”, and stressed how hard it was for Wolves once they were one man down.

He did not want to dwell on Connor’s pain. “They were honest and committed,” he said of Wolves. They were overwhelmed.

The title race, Ferguson added, would go “down to the wire” but at this rate the relegation battle will not for Wolves. Here were two clubs with diametrically opposed momentum. For United it is 25 points from 27, five consecutive victories and a team coursing with self-belief. For Wolves, it is nine home matches without a win and no clean sheet in 26 games.

Clearly United scented goals with Ferguson including Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernández and Danny Welbeck as well as the outstanding Antonio Valencia. It was a quartet with the sharpest of attacking edges, constantly cutting through a Wolves defence whose disorganisation contributed to their downfall.

It was summed up by United’s opening goal — which came soon after Steven Fletcher had fluffed a header — with Rooney drifting a corner over to where Michael Carrick had been allowed to pull free unmarked. The midfielder guided the ball back into the six-yard area where Jonny Evans was afforded the time to half-volley his first goal for United.

Zubar, already cautioned for a rash challenge on Rooney, then heaved into Welbeck on the touchline and the referee had little choice. Wolves also lost their best player, David Davis, to a cracked rib and United were clinical.

From a Wolves corner, they broke at speed, with Hernández finding Rooney, who chipped a pass down the right wing for Valencia to run on to. The winger’s first touch took him away, he ran on and crashed a shot across Wayne Hennessey and into the net.

Then Carrick’s cross-field ball picked out Valencia who simply cut it back for Welbeck, again unmarked, to take in his stride and sweep home. It was not even half-time and the contest was all over. There were the inevitable boos, there was a long delay before the Wolves players came out for the second period and it was really all about damage limitation.

Two more goals came with barely an hour played. For the first, Rooney won a corner, Valencia took it short and Rafael da Silva’s cross was met by Hernández, again unchallenged, who simply steered his header beyond Hennessey. Then Valencia worked his way down the right, exchanged passes with Welbeck and cleverly stood the ball up for Hernández whose half-volley was powered in.

There was a flicker of defiance with David De Gea saving smartly from substitute Michael Kightly and turning away Fletcher’s header. But by then United were strolling.

“I want to be responsible for the football club,” Connor said, with commendable courage. But the heavy responsibility appears too much for him.