6:11 P.M. (EASTERN TIME).

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Rob DawsonCorrespondent

MANCHESTER, England — Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was determined to give Manchester United a chance at the title, but he knows better than anyone that it’s results like that narrow 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers that distinguish teams capable of winning championships.

After winning six titles as a player at Old Trafford, Solskjaer will know the importance of a tight victory in the middle of these gruelling winter lists.

– Solskjaer talks trophies, Pogba with ESPN
– ESPN FC Daily Stream on ESPN+ (US only)

In 90 minutes here against a short-armed and very inexperienced Wolf side, United managed to impose only two penalties. But Marcus Rashford’s third attempt, stopped by Romain Saiss in the third minute, was missed – and Solskjaer’s side are now second in the Premier League, just two points behind Liverpool. It was only United’s second 1-0 victory of the season, but further success is to be expected if United remains a real contender for the title.

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Solskjaer and the rest of the reserve bench looked almost surprised when the ball came in after a game in which there were not many clear chances and that would end in the fourth draw of the last five games between the two teams. However, the Norwegian coach can be satisfied that his players at least showed the will to score the winning goal – if not always the ability to do so – and it was Bruno Fernandez who brought the ball forward just as the clock was ticking, which ultimately led to the winning goal from Rashford.

Following the loss of Arsenal in November, United now have 23 points from a possible 27. And the trip to Anfield for the game against Liverpool on the 17th. The month of January promises to become increasingly critical.

It’s been a long time since United played such an important game at the top of the table.

We had a fantastic attitude and it’s a great result, Solskjaer said afterwards. We won it by the desire to continue and create this small fortune. It’s a good way to end the year.

We’re gonna focus on the next game. I’m very annoying, but we can’t go too far, he added. We’re in quite a position at the moment, but we’re not even halfway through the season yet.

We didn’t play as well as we wanted, but we won the game against a very tough team. This is my first league win against them. There have never been many goals scored in matches, but it’s a big step forward for me – the fact that you don’t play well, but you win.

Fault! The file name is not specified. Marcus Rashford (10) took all three points for Man United and scored the winning goal in the 93rd minute. Minute against the Wolves for second place on the board. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

If United wants to become Liverpool’s most serious challengers, they need to find a way to be more creative at home. The Wolves were happy to take a point for much of the evening and it is significant that referee John Moss found it necessary to give goalkeeper Rui Patricio a penalty for most of the remaining 20 minutes of the game.

Although Solskjaer used all his offensive arsenal, the combination of Rashford, Fernandez, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba Patricio forced only two major saves for the winning goal. United won’t always be able to rely on the distraction of downtime to win the game, but that’s a discussion for another time.

After the disappointment of a late equaliser against Leicester on Boxing Day, United bounced back with a crucial victory in a big game under difficult circumstances. While the draw in the King Power Stadium was a missed opportunity, this time United was able to capitalize after both Chelsea and Leicester lost points the day before. It was also a game that they could have lost pretty easily this time last year.

We’re a different team now, Solskjaer said. We’re better mentally and physically. This belief stems from the performance, the results and the players we have on the field who can change a game in a second.

In the preseason we talked about scoring more points by the end of the games, and we’ve done that several times this season. Physically, we’ve been playing more lately.

The victory against the Wolves ended in 2020, and Solskjaer ended one of his interviews: We have a lot of things planned for 2021. The foundation has been laid for the first title fight in seven years, even though the American boss doesn’t admit it yet.

He said there wouldn’t be a title race after 15 games. Of course you can lose a chance to compete in the first 10 games, but play another 15 games – up to 30 games – and then maybe we’ll talk about the title game.

The conviction is there, we’ve shown what we’re capable of and this is a huge trust boost.

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