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Midfielder's efficient strike calms United nerves.


Manchester United were forced to work hard at Old Trafford as Wolfsburg battled resiliently from start to finish.

The German side took a surprise lead early in the second half through Edin Dzeko’s headed goal, only to see their advantage canceled out from Ryan Giggs’ deflected free kick. It was still far from comfortable for United – until Michael Carrick’s clinical strike sealed a hard-fought victory for the home side.

Wolfsburg served notice of their attacking intentions as early as the third minute with chances created for first Sascha Rieter, and then Christian Gentner, whose shot lacked the power to seriously trouble Tomasz Kusczak in the Manchester United goal.

Wolfsburg continued to enjoy the better of the early exchanges, with a succession of forays into Manchester United territory putting the home side under unfamiliar pressure. Fortunately for United, the German attacks lacked any real bite, though there could have been few complaints had they conceded a goal, such was the apparent nervousness of their play.

United’s first real chance came in the nineteenth minute, with Wayne Rooney’s free kick swerving just wide of the left hand upright. It was followed almost immediately by another early exit for Michael Owen – a minor injury forcing his substitution and replacement by Dimitar Berbatov.

After Owen’s withdrawal, United seemed to spring into life, and Antonio Valencia should have opened the scoring on 25 minutes when Berbatov’s deft flick left the Wolfsburg defense beaten all ends up – but the Ecuadorian could only shoot wide when clean through on goal.

Berbatov continued to unsettle the German defense as Manchester United began to look much more composed and gradually took control of the play, and as half time approached it was the Germans who would have felt most fortunate to see the score still standing at 0-0.

But with just ten minutes gone in the second half, it was the towering figure of Edin Dzeko who finally opened the scoring as Wolfsburg took a shock lead. The Bosnian striker easily rose above his marker to meet Makoto Hasebe’s cross and place a bullet header beyond the reach of Tomasz Kusczak.

That lead had lasted barely three minutes when a Ryan Giggs free kick from the edge of the area took a wicked deflection from the Wolfsburg defensive wall and ended up nestled in the back of the net.

Giggs found the net a second time in the seventieth minute, only to see his goal disallowed for offside.

United did finally take the lead in the 78th minute, Michael Carrick side-footing home a curling shot after good work from Dimitar Berbatov and then Ryan Giggs created the opportunity in front of a gleeful Stretford End.

It was a nervous finish for United as Wolfsburg pressed for an equalizer, but the Reds clung on for a tough but ultimately deserved 2-1 win.

Nick Boldock, Goal.com

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