Manchester United made light work of Wigan Athletic in their latest Premier League match, defeating Robert Martinez’s side 4-0 at Old Trafford.
All the goalscoring action took place in the second half, with Paul Scholes netting on his 700th appearance for the club, whilst Alexander Buttner and Nick Powell capped their respective first team debuts with goals of their own and Rio Ferdinand played another 90 minutes as he helped United to their first clean sheet of the season, in what was his 400th appearance for the club.
At half time the score remained 0-0, and though Sir Alex Ferguson would have felt content with his sides sheer control of the game, there was little doubting that United needed to quicken their play in the final third, where they were crowded out by Wigan’s sturdy defence. United were given a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the 6th minute when Welbeck earned a penalty by going down rather easily under a challenge from Wigan keeper Ali Al-Habsi. The decision earned the ire of Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, but poetic justice was served when Javier Hernandez, given his first start of the season, was unable to convert the penalty, hitting a low and rather weak shot to Al-Habsi’s left, which he saved with ease.
The penalty was rather indicative of the rest of the half. United were well in control of the game, with Wigan unable to get out of their half for the most part, but a lack of sharpness in the final third showed with United failing to create much in the way of clear cut chances. Danny Welbeck was one of the better performers, and was perhaps a bit unlucky not to convert one of several decent chances. Welbeck won most of the crosses that came into the box but a combination of good defending, good keeping and mere inches kept him from breaking the deadlock.
Nani had a fine chance too when he was slipped in by an otherwise ineffective Ryan Giggs, but the Portuguese winger failed to convert the chance.
Wigan weren’t without their own opportunities as well, however, and they could have opened the scoring themselves when the ball fell kindly to Arouna Kone inside United’s 18-yard box, but the new Wigan signing failed to get the ball from out of his feet and poked his shot wide from a position where he probably should have scored. It was enough to send the teams into the break level, and Kone might have scored again had he managed to get his header on target shortly after the restart.
It would prove one of few opportunities for Wigan in the second half, as United turned up the pressure on their opponents. Persistence was always going to be the keyword in this game, with United dominating, it seemed a matter of if not when the breakthrough would come, and it eventually did come through the trusty avenue of Paul Scholes. Celebrating his 700th appearance for Manchester United, Scholes made his impact with a typically well timed run into the box to turn home a fantastic low cross from Nani, who was found with an impeccable pass from Michael Carrick.
Javier Hernandez doubled United’s lead just over ten minutes later in the 63rd minute, when he turned home Alexander Buttner’s drive at goal from close range to make amends for his earlier penalty miss. It was no less than the Mexican deserved in a game in which he worked tirelessly for his teams cause. He was clattered at every opportunity by the Wigan defenders who managed to escape bookings despite the frequency of their poorly timed tackles, but it was not enough to deny Hernandez his first goal of the season from his first start.
Buttner was perhaps unlucky to see what might have been a goal bound effort tapped in by United’s cheeky goal poacher, but it wouldn’t be enough to deny the classy left back a debut goal. The debutant had endeared himself to the Old Trafford crowd with a storming first half, but he would tear the house down when he showed tremendous skill, graft and desire to put United 3-0 up in the 66th minute. When it seemed he had been fouled, Buttner quickly got to his feet to ensure advantage was paid, picking up the ball and driving relentlessly at his opponents. He skipped past Boyce, and angled his run at the near post, driving beyond James McCarthy and slamming his effort on goal. The ball went in somewhat fortuitously as Al-Habsi couldn’t turn it away from goal, but it was no less than the Dutch full back deserved on a brilliant debut.
The goal signalled a raft of changes, with Robin Van Persie and Nick Powell, making his own United debut, were brought on to replace Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. Jonny Evans would later enter the fray for his first appearance of the season with Nemanja Vidic being withdrawn.
Nick Powell completed the route in the 82nd minute when he picked up a square pass from Hernandez, before skipping past a defender and smashing a brilliant drive beyond Al-Habsi.
The result puts United in second place, after both Chelsea and Manchester City dropped points.
United will open their Champions League campaign this week with a midweek fixture against Turkish giants Galatasaray at Old Trafford.
United: Lindegaard 7.5, Rafael 7, Ferdinand 7, Vidic 7, Buttner 9, Nani 7.5, Scholes 8, Carrick 8, Giggs 6.5, Welbeck 7, Hernandez 7.5
Man of the Match:
What a debut! Beyond the amazing goal he scored and an assist, this was a debut packed with emotion and drive. Clean in the tackle, responsible defensively as well as being deadly in attack, any skeptics over Buttner’s move to Old Trafford have surely been silenced temporarily at least. He has been brought in to provide some real competition to Patrice Evra and on the back of that performance, it looks like that’s exactly what he’s going to do.