Manchester United bounced back from consecutive Premier League defeats by beating Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford to strengthen their bid for a top-four finish.
Erik ten Hag’s side had lost to Brighton and West Ham to give Liverpool – who were one point behind in fourth at the start of the day – hope of snatching a Champions League spot at their expense.
But Anthony Martial opened the scoring in the first half before Alejandro Garnacho marked his return from a long spell out through injury with a second in stoppage time to secure a win that moved Manchester United four points clear of the Reds with three games remaining.
With Marcus Rashford out through injury, it looked like being a difficult day in front of goal for the hosts as they missed a number of decent chances, particularly through Antony.
The winger curled an effort just wide after racing into space before sending a header over from close range when unmarked.
But Antony provided the assist for the first-half breakthrough when he was played in by Bruno Fernandes and he unselfishly squared to Martial for the tap-in.
Antony had another opportunity to get on the scoresheet in the second half but he drove a shot just wide of the post after being set up by a Fernandes backheel.
However, substitute Garnacho finally got Manchester United’s second when the teenager raced through in the fourth minute of stoppage time before firing past Dan Bentley in the Wolves goal.
The visitors rarely threatened as they finished the game without a shot on target.
Manchester United remain fourth but are level on 66 points with Newcastle in third. Wolves, meanwhile, are 13th.
Man Utd moving closer to Champions League return
After beating Aston Villa in their last game at Old Trafford, Manchester United’s place in the top four at the end of the season looked a formality as they were seven points above fifth-placed Liverpool with a game in hand.
But the Red Devils have been much less effective on the road than at home this season and the losses to Brighton and West Ham before Saturday’s game opened the door for Jurgen Klopp’s side to try to sneak in.
Regardless, Manchester United knew three wins from their final four games would seal a top-four spot and against a Wolves side who had recently secured Premier League safety, this will have been a game they would have felt confident of winning.
Oddly, the hosts played much of the game lacking the urgency of a side who still had plenty to play for and while they dominated play and created chances, they did not often work Bentley in the Wolves goal.
Antony, in particular, was wasteful with several chances and often chose to shoot when a team-mate was better placed, although crucially did make the right choice for the opener when he set up Martial for a simple finish.
While it took until the 94th minute for the hosts to get a second, the score line was far more reflective of Manchester United’s dominance as they put the pressure back on Liverpool in the race for the top four.