Manchester United 2-1 Bolton Wanderers
Knight (og) 4 Taylor 75
Manchester United returned to the top of the Premier League, but were left hanging on to the three points by a spirited late rally from Bolton, having earlier looked as if they were going to cruise to victory.
A fifth-minute own goal by Bolton defender Zat Knight and Antonio Valencia’s first strike in United colours left Sir Alex Ferguson’s men in complete control after half an hour.
And strike duo Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov both spurned opportunities to put the game beyond Bolton’s reach shortly after the interval.
But Matt Taylor’s 75th minute header changed the complexion of the afternoon, and Wanderers had two chances to equalise in stoppage time – usually United’s job - Gary Cahill heading straight at United keeper Edwin Van Der Sar in the last seconds.
It was Van Der Sar’s first start of the season, in a United line-up shorn of the injured Wayne Rooney.
But that didn’t disrupt their rhythm and they were quickly ahead when Owen’s header was diverted into the net by Knight as he attempted a clearance.
Centre-back Jonny Evans was denied by a wonder save from Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen a minute later. And Berbatov’s volley was deflected wide by the luckless Owen in the 13th minute.
Wanderers served a warning of their aerial threat a minute later when Kevin Davies headed a good chance wide from Sam Ricketts’ cross.
But Valencia doubled United’s advantage on 33 minutes, crashing home a right-foot shot at the near-post after a slick three-man passing move.
United dropped the tempo as the second-half wore on and were made to pay when Taylor outjumped Patrice Evra to head home Davies’ cross after a thrilling run at the heart of the defence by Mark Davies.
And had Cahill’s last-gasp header been directed either side of Van Der Sar, there would have been no way back for the champions.
Tags: Manchester United, Bolton, Zat Knight, Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov, Edwin Van Der Sar, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra