Manchester United survived an onslaught from Wolves and huge claims for a late penalty to start the Premier League season with a 1-0 win thanks to Raphael Varane’s header on Monday.
Wolves had seen manager Julen Lopetegui walk out less than a week before the new campaign, but dominated for long spells at Old Trafford.
A combination of wasteful finishing and new United goalkeeper Andre Onana kept the visitors at bay until Varane headed in 14 minutes from time.
Onana was lucky to escape when he punched Sasa Kalajdzic as he flapped at a cross deep into stoppage time and VAR did not intervene.
“It looked like the keeper nearly took our forward’s head off,” said Wolves boss Gary O’Neil. “I think it is a foul. You go for the ball and clatter the player that hard. It is a penalty.”
O’Neil added that Premier League referees chief Jon Moss had contacted him after the game to apologise for the decision.
United clung on to get off to a winning start, in stark contrast to the two defeats that began Erik ten Hag’s reign 12 months ago.
But the manner of the performance raises questions over whether United can pose a serious challenge for their first Premier League title in a decade.
“There is no easy game in the Premier League and definitely not Wolves,” said Ten Hag.
“You have to fight in every game. We hope we’ll be better on the ball in the next game.”
United fans’ wishes that a new season would start under new ownership have not been met with a sale process seemingly at a standstill.
The home support again showed their displeasure towards owners, the Glazer family, with a pre-match protest against the Americans and chants of “we want Glazers out” at kick-off.
That lingering uncertainty has not stopped another summer of big spending by the Red Devils.
Onana and midfielder Mason Mount were handed their debuts by Ten Hag, but new £64 million ($81 million) striker Rasmus Hojlund was ruled out by a back injury.
Wolves, by contrast, lost Lopetegui less six days ago due to a lack of funds in the transfer market.
O’Neil replaced the Spaniard tasked with repeating his heroics in keeping Bournemouth in the Premier League last season.
Wolves did not look like a club in crisis as they controlled the game, but suffered from a lack of a cutting edge up front.
Pablo Sarabia and Matheus Cunha fired the best chances of the first-half just past the post.
Cunha came even closer at the start of the second period. The Brazilian should have scored when he hit the outside of the post with the goal gaping.
The £44 million obligation to buy Cunha from Atletico Madrid this summer has restricted Wolves’ budget.
But the 24-year-old showed a glimpse of why he could yet live up to that fee with a surging run through the heart of the United midfield before firing a low shot that Onana turned behind.
Pedro Neto was next to waste a glorious opportunity when he shot straight at Onana with just the Cameroonian to beat.
Wolves wastefulness in front of goal came back to haunt them when Varane nodded in 15 minutes from time.
Bruno Fernandes’ pass picked out Aaron Wan-Bissaka, whose lofted cross picked out the French centre-back to head into an unguarded net.
Wolves could still have bounced back to take a more than deserved point.
Onana twice denied substitute Fabio Silva with his legs before the former Inter ‘keeper somehow when he flapped at a cross and wiped out Kalajdzic.
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