Ashley Young’s needless dismissal and Chris Smalling’s farcical own goal shipped Manchester United crashing into some destructive 2-1 defeat against Wolves on Tuesday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side blew an opportunity to go into third place in the Premier League since they wasted the lead at a disappointing display at Molineux.
United remain, however, their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League through a top-four conclusion will probably be further afield if Tottenham and Chelsea triumph on Wednesday.
It was a frustrating night for Solskjaer, who watched United endure a third defeat in their last four matches — underlining just how much work that the Norwegian still has in front of him following his appointment as permanent supervisor last week.
Scott McTominay’s initial goal for United was negated by Diogo Jota before the interval, but the game’s turning point was shown to be a 2nd yellow card collected by Young with only 57 minutes.
United finally caved to Wolves’ stress 20 minutes later, when Raul Jimenez climbed above Phil Jones and led by Joao Moutinho cross goalwards.
The awkward effort saw Smalling and goalkeeper David de Gea become entangled, with the former making the final touch as the ball rolled over the line.
McTominay’s memorable first goal in professional football had arrived after only 13 minutes along with a solid, controlled launch by Solskjaer’s team.
An individual left-wing build-up finished with Jesse Lingard playing with the ball centrally to Fred, together with all the Brazilian quickly moving it to Scotland international McTominay.
The 22-year-old unleashed a brilliant, right-foot complete from 25 yards which beat the diving Rui Patricio and nestled at the much left-hand corner.
It may have been a much healthier position several moments later, but Romelu Lukaku awakened McTominay because his team-mate lined up yet another shot from a similar selection.
However, with Wolves’ defense looking curiously disorganized, there was still a chance for Lukaku to the processor at a dangerous center for Lingard, whose close-range header was pawed off to safety by Patricio.
The goal lead was only rewarding for a powerful beginning by United, with Lingard moving forward directly in kick-off and unleashing the match’s first shot with only five seconds.
There was also a promising assault that saw Fred spray on the ball wide to Diogo Dalot whose dangling crossover found Lukaku, only for the Belgian to direct his header directly in the keeper from six yards.
But, United succumbed into the very first period of stress placed upon them from the home side, who had already conquered them at the FA Cup only weeks ago.
To begin with, an unfortunate rally off Dalot allowed Willy Boly to play Jimenez who dashed the 24th-minute shot.
Only seconds later, United wasn’t so lucky after a poor clearance from De Gea, as well as worse control by Fred, watched him lose the ball to Moutinho with Jimenez pouncing on it and playing at Jota.
The Portuguese forwards didn’t require another invitation to progress and calmly beat De Gea for the equalizer.
United looked shaken and a mistake by Luke Shaw, in misdirecting a header, shortly played Matt Doherty, who pulled the ball back for Leo Dendoncker to blaze over in the corner of this six-yard location.
United threatened following the restart, using a Lukaku cross flicked on by Paul Pogba to get McTominay, who stooped low and watched his diving header well saved by the outstretched hands of Patricio.
However, United’s job was hardly made simpler when Young collected two yellow cards in the space of five minutes for fouls on Jota, the next following a particularly unpleasant large challenge.
As Wolves lovers, heating for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final with Watford, celebrated their impending success, substitute Ivan Cavaleiro almost made it three when he struck the crossbar in stoppage-time.