Manchester United brushed aside Wolves at Molineux to book a place in the FA Cup fifth round. Kieran Richardson gave United an early lead with a first-time shot after the Wolves central defence failed to deal with Louis Saha’s low cross. Saha sprinted clear of Wolves’ square back line to latch on to Nemanja Vidic’s long pass for United’s second. Richardson then rounded off a delightful move, heading home Ruud van Nistelrooy’s cross. Wolves were left with a mountain to climb as Richardson gave United – with defender Rio Ferdinand, Ji-Sung Park and striker Wayne Rooney pressed into midfield duties – a flying start.
Joleon Lescott and Gabor Gyepes got into a tangle with Saha’s low cross and Richardson coolly placed home a first-time shot from 16 yards. The lead might have been doubled when Richardson swapped passes with Saha and bore down on goal but, with team-mates poised for a cross, he opted to shoot from a narrow angle and keeper Stefan Postma saved. Wolves showed their threat when Mark Kennedy arrowed in a cross and Carl Cort failed to keep his header down from eight yards. That sparked a good response from Wolves, who asked serious questions of a United defence that included £7m signing Vidic – making his first start since sealing a move from Spartak Moscow on 5 January.
Darren Anderton’s cross was misjudged by Wes Brown but Cort was taken by surprise as the ball landed at his feet and was unable to get in a shot before he was closed down. Wolves had their share of possession but Postma twice came to their rescue as United caught them on the break, first beating away Saha’s powerful snap-shot and then denying Gary Neville. Postma was helpless, though, as Saha sprinted clear of a square Wolves defence to latch on to Vidic’s long pass and he slotted the ball past the home keeper. Wolves boss Glenn Hoddle was prompted into action at half-time and one of his substitutions, Colin Cameron, immediately tested Edwin van der Sar with a thumping shot.
United put the game beyond reach with a delightful third goal. Ji-Sung Park showed tremendous determination to battle his way past Lee Naylor and find Van Nistelrooy in the penalty area and the Dutchman patiently waited for his opportunity to clip a cross for Richardson to head in his second goal. An error by Rio Ferdinand could have gifted Wolves a consolation but the England defender was relieved as Cort stabbed the loose ball past the post from six yards out.
New signing Tomasz Frankowski almost made an instant impact as a substitute, chesting down the ball and ripping a shot inches wide, with Van der Sar groping for air.
Class finishing and link-up play. Really beginning to show his true potential.