Alex Ferguson made an emotional return to Old Trafford on Saturday but Manchester United were unable to lay on a victory for their former manager, held by a Wolves side who already look at home in the Premier League.

The acclaim afforded to the beaming Scot, back among the United faithful for the first time since undergoing brain surgery in May, was heartfelt and thunderous but the full-time whistle brought a more muted reaction as Jose Mourinho's side lost further ground on the title chasers.

The Red Devils had taken the lead against the run of play when Paul Pogba's gorgeous touch teed up Fred for his first goal in English football but the Frenchman was partially culpable for the move which led to Joao Moutinho's second-half equaliser.

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United might well have been nursing successive home defeats were it not for the brilliant David De Gea, who made a handful of key saves including one from Adama Traore in added time.

Nuno Espirito Santo, once a player under Mourinho at Porto, was acclaimed as "the special one" by the away contingent and may well live up to the billing.

Having watched on obligingly during the touching pre-match tribute, his Wolves side wasted little time announcing themselves once the whistle blew.

Jonny hurled himself into an early challenge on Antonio Valencia - back in place of Diogo Dalot - earning penalty appeals from fans behind the goal but admiration from those who saw him time his slide to perfection.

Forward momentum quickly followed, almost all of it aimed in the direction of Luke Shaw at left-back.

Wolves successfully burrowed in behind the England international four times in 15 minutes and might easily have conjured a goal for their efforts.

That they failed to was down the steadfast De Gea. He reacted quickly to block Raul Jimenez's snap-shot with his feet, Helder Costa having skipped to the byline and cut back, then made an even better tumbling stop from a corner.

Willy Boly looked to have done enough, heading powerfully into the turf, but the Spaniard was equal to it. United had already had a warning from a corner, Ryan Bennett beating Pogba but clearing the crossbar.

United took the lead against the run of play after Alexis Sanchez's cross was half-cleared to Pogba.

The World Cup winner processed his options in an instant, cushioning a first-time pass that took Ruben Neves out of the game and left Fred with a clear sight of goal.

The Brazilian obliged, whipping into the bottom corner from the edge of the area and ensuring Pogba's classy touch got its rightful reward.

The goal allowed United to settle, shutting down their visitors' previous enthusiasm. Fred almost doubled his tally with the last kick before half-time, bending a free-kick towards the top corner only for Rui Patricio to muster a save that would sit neatly in De Gea's own scrapbook.

Wolves levelled on the counter eight minutes after the interval, Jimenez collecting the ball in the centre of the box after another raid down the United left which began with sloppy play from Pogba.

Awkwardly placed for a shot he laid off for Moutinho, who was lingering 18 yards from goal and bent a classy finish past De Gea.

Neither side looked inclined to settle on the draw. Diogo Jota was first to fire, a low effort that threatened to squirm inside the post, and Jesse Lingard almost surprising Patricio with a long-ranger that was pawed over nervously.

Romelu Lukaku's blushes were spared by the offside flag, the Belgian heading wide while all alone at the far post.

Mourinho emptied his bench in little more than 10 minutes, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira for Fred, Sanchez and Lingard.

United built pressure, and plenty of it, but Wolves came close to nicking a remarkable victory when substitute Traore drew one last reaction save from De Gea.