United down Wigan with second-half blitz
Premier League, Old Trafford – Manchester United 4 (Scholes 51, Hernandez 63, Buttner 66, Powell 82) Wigan Athletic 0
Four goals in an inspired second-half showing gave Manchester United a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Wigan Athletic in their Premier League encounter at Old Trafford.
A missed spot kick from Javier Hernandez in the fifth minute after a very dubious penalty was awarded left the match goalless at half-time, but goals from Paul Scholes, Hernandez and debutants Alexander Buttner and Nick Powell gave United all three points.
It was a landmark day for three United players: Scholes made his 700th appearance for United, Ryan Giggs became the first player to feature in 600 Premier League games, and Rio Ferdinand hit the 400 mark, and it would prove to be a fine afternoon for all three after an unconvincing first-half showing from the hosts.
Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa were both confined to the bench for United as Sir Alex Ferguson handed a debut to defender Buttner at left-back and Danny Welbeck and Hernandez were paired together in attack.
Anders Lindegaard was again preferred to the dropped David de Gea between the posts, and the Dane was left flat-footed early on as Ivan Ramis rose above Ferdinand to head narrowly wide of the far post from a corner.
Welbeck was very lively early on, and he won his side a penalty in just the fifth minute as he stormed forward and took a dramatic fall as Ali Al Habsi closed him down. Replays showed that there was little or no contact, and Wigan were furious with the decision from referee Michael Oliver.
The visitors’ sense of injustice did not last long, however: Hernandez planted a dismal penalty tamely to Al Habsi’s left, and the Oman goalkeeper was able to make a comfortable save down low with the Mexican left to bemoan his effort.
United, who had won all 14 meetings in all competitions with Wigan prior to their defeat in April last season, did not have things all their own way in the first half as striker Arouna Kone fluffed his kick at the back post after the excellent Jean Beausejour curled over a pinpoint cross.
Nani and Welbeck each managed to get in behind the Wigan back four courtesy of sublime through balls from Scholes, but the Portuguese was too cute with an attempted chip which drifted over the bar, while the latter was denied by an impeccable last-ditch challenge from Maynor Figueroa.
Neither manager made any changes at the break, and Wigan continued where they left off in the second half, building from deep and breaking at pace with Beausejour and Kone using their speed to good effect, stretching the United back four.
But Scholes marked his landmark match with a tap-in from the six-yard box after a fine cross from Nani which Al Habsi could only parry to the midfielder. It was the 37-year-old’s 155th goal for the club, and turned the match decisively the way of the home side.
Just seconds later, Nani roared down the right once more and cut the ball back for Welbeck, whose first touch left him with his back to goal, and his inventive overhead kick just drifted the wrong side of the far post.
Roberto Martinez introduced Jordi Gomez at the expense of Shaun Maloney on the hour mark in an attempt to inspire a fightback from his side, but United continued to dominate the play from midfield, and they made it two as Wigan lost their composure in the penalty area.
Welbeck won the ball back for the hosts superbly in the Wigan box, before debutant Buttner's shot was turned past Al Habsi by Hernandez, who was played onside as he stole in to grab an opportunist goal.
Minutes later, it was game over as the provider turned goalscorer: Buttner rampaged down the left and brushed past both Boyce and Ramis before driving a low shot past the helpless Al Habsi. It was an inspired strike from the defender.
The old guard were withdrawn after 71 minutes as Scholes and Giggs made way for 18-year-old Nick Powell and Van Persie, who had scored four goals from just six shots on target so far for United before the game and netted a staggering 52 goals in his last 58 Premier League games.
Van Persie missed from close range two minutes later as Nani forced his way down the right once more and cut the ball back, but the Dutchman got his feet tangled up and failed to convert from the six-yard box as Al Habsi swooped to gather.
But Powell added more gloss to the scoreline in the 82nd minute. Wigan failed to clear a loose ball on the edge of their own box, and Hernandez found Powell who jinked inside a challenge from Caldwell with real poise before firing an emphatic finish inside the near post.
Ferguson called for his side to be more solid defensively before the match, and he could hardly have wished for a more convincing display from his side at both ends of the field ahead of the Champions League clash with Galatasaray on Wednesday.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Paul Scholes – Manchester United: On his 700th appearance, it was the midfielder who broke the deadlock with an opportunist close-range finish, and his creativity from deep that kept Wigan on the back foot for most of the game.