A double brace by Javier Hernandez and Robin van Persie sinks Wigan as United extend their goal difference and remain seven points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Manchester United today played their first match of 2013 in a local derby with Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium. Last season United were beaten here 1-0 which helped them lose the title on the final day of the season. How would United fare here today? Sir Alex Ferguson brought a strong side and made five changes from the last match. Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez started up front together in a strong United side.
United start the match in front of a crowd of around 19,000 supporters in the DW Stadium. United immediately with Javier Hernandez running on the right and he picked up a pass from Robin van Persie but the angle was too tight on his shot and it never even troubles Ali Al-Habsi. Wigan then caught a break but Aroune Kone was ruled offside.
Javier Hernandez scored on the 11th minute but he was ruled offside, which was the correct decision. It was a delightful ball from Ryan Giggs and an excellent from the Mexican, just a shame it did not count. Rafael injected a bit of pace into the game with a quick burst forward, but his final pass was awful as he sent the ball a long way beyond Robin van Persie and straight out of play. Jean Beausejour had a chance to test David De Gea but his shot went high into the stands.
Ashley Young was challenged just outside of the box by Jean Beausejour and the referee was about to blow the whistle for a penalty before he waved play on. Both players were being equally physical and Andre Marriner was right to wave play on.
United got a free kick in a decent area on the 30th minute and Al-Habsi fumbled what should he been a routine cross. Luckily for him the ball did not drop nicely for a United player ans Gary Caldwell threw his body onto the line to spare his keepers blushes. Ali Al-Habsi has been looking a little shaky today. United won a series of corners in quick succession. However, he is a great shot stopper and he came up with an unorthodox but impressive save to shovel away Rafael’s swerving, long-range effort.
United take the lead on the 35th minute with Javier Hernandez. United had been piling on the pressure for the last few minutes and were rewarded as Hernandez pounced on a Patrice Evra shot that was parried by Al-Habsi. Wigan could easily go two or three goals down today. United are really starting to smell the blood and go in for the kill.
Wigan got a slight reprieve as a United corner found its way through to the back post but it hit Patrice Evra on the arm, prompting the referee to give Wigan a free kick. From the free kick Emmerson Boyce floated an inviting ball towards Franco Di Santo at the back post, but Rio Ferdinand uses every inch of his frame to stretch and head the ball clear.
United go 2-0 up with a stunning goal from Robin van Persie as he turned away from Ivan Ramis, leaving the Wigan defender on his backside and he then curled a right-footed finish past Al-Habsi from inside the area. Javier Hernandez then follows up by scoring again just a minute later after a nice running pass from the midfield, but unfortunately the Mexican was offside again, that could have been his hat-trick! United were 0-2 up at half time.
Wigan are looking no better at the start of the second half with their scrappy play. Ivan Ramis surrendered possession following a horribly under-hit pass, but Javier Hernandez could not capitalise as he sliced his shot wide from a tight angle. Wigan were very edgy at the back as Maynor Figueroa and Ali Al-Habsi nearly got themselves in a table before the keeper eventually boots it clear.
Ashley Young crashed a shot straight at Manor Figueroa after an opportunity presented itself to him 25 yards from goal. United then nearly carved Wigan open with some intricate passing but could not quite find the killer ball. They soon got another chance to come forward, though, as Wigan keep giving the ball away so far in the game. This is starting to look too easy for Manchester United. Javier Hernandez blasted an ambitious shot from distance, which was high and wide.
Wigan briefly weathered the storm as they got a free-kick just inside the United half. Arouna Kone scored to bring Wigan back in the match, He turned a Franco Di Santo low cross into the back of the net from close range, but for the third time today the goal has been disallowed for offside. It was a good decision and was definitely offside. Gary Caldwell became the first player to be booked today following a cynical foul on Javier Hernandez.
Manchester United get a free kick just outside of the area which Robin van Persie and Ashley Young were lining up to take. Robin van Persie took the free kick and Javier Hernandez steered the ball into the back of the net. United were 0-3 up at Wigan, surely that is game over for the home side.
Robin van Persie then waltzes his way past a couple of Wigan challenges and it looked like he would score a sublime goal as he shaped up to shoot from the edge of the area, but for once he could not keep his effort below the crossbar. United make two changes with Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick coming off and Chris Smalling and Shinji Kagawa replacing them. Wigan also make two changes with Gary Caldwell and Franco Di Santo being replaced by Ronnie Stam and Jordi Gomez.
Manchester United will surely get another clean sheet today. Wigan, apart from their disallowed goal, really do not look like a threat. Anything can happen in football but another clean sheet is a must, along with a few more goals which will put United in a better position this season.
Sir Alex Ferguson makes his final change of the match with Danny Welbeck replacing Ashley Young. United are going all out to score more goals. Wigan have continued to battle hard in the second half but they have been leaving plenty of gaps to exploit at the back. Danny Welbeck looks desperate to impress in the closing stages of the match. Wigan have still not had a shot on target in the match, apart from the disallowed goal that is!
Chris Smalling found himself lucky to only see a yellow card as he hauled down Arouna Kone. It was a clear foul and Kone would otherwise have been through on goal. Jordi Gomez stepped up to take ownership of the free kick and curled a sumptuous effort agonisingly wide of the crossbar. David De Gea certainly had to stay alert there, but he has had far too little to do for the rest of the match. Wigan were starting to finish brightly. They have improved considerably since the double change with Jordi Gomez and Ronnie Stam making good contributions. Wigan make their final change with Shaun Maloney coming off and being replaced by Callum McManaman.
Maynor Figueroa tried his luck with an ambitious attempt from a distance which flew high and wide of De Gea’s goal. United make it 0-4 with Robin van Persie scoring a brace after some calamitous defending from Wigan. Danny Welbeck had the opportunity to squared the ball for Robin van Persie, and the Dutchman had the simplest of finishes for his second goal of the game.
Wigan’s fans are already starting to stream out of their seats before United’s fourth goal and were now heading in their droves in an effort to beat the traffic.
United have done it. Full time 0-4 and a back to back clean sheet. The New Year has started well for Manchester United.
Man of the Match: Javier Hernandez
Goals: Javier Hernandez 35′, 63′, Robin van Persie 43′, 88′
Match Statistics: Goals 4, Shots on 7, Shots off 4, Corners 6, Offsides 4, Yellow cards 1, Red cards 0, Fouls won 13, Fouls conceded 6, Pass success rate 84%, Possession 47%
Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand (Smalling 68′), Evans, Evra, Young (Welbeck 78′), Carrick (Kagawa 68′), Cleverley, Giggs, van Persie, Hernandez
Substitutes not used: Lindegaard, Vidic, Scholes, Valencia
Wigan Athletic: Al-Habsi, Ramis, Caldwell (Stam 69′), Figueroa, Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour, Maloney (McManaman 86′), Di Santo (Gomez 70′), Kone
Substitutes not used: Pollitt, Jones, Boselli, Golobart
By Paul Bienkowski