On the day that Wayne Rooney would make his Manchester United return, there were more pressing matters to attend on the pitch. Wigan Athletic were the visitors, and following Arsenal’s loss earlier in the day, it was the team’s chance to move a few points clear and towards Chelsea. Following some recent poor form, Sir Alex decided to leave out Berbatov altogether, and opted for the pairing of Obertan playing just behind Macheda. Carrick, Fletcher, Park and Nani played in midfield, and the usual back five started as well.
Despite this strong starting lineup however, Wigan were the team knocking the ball about with confidence. Indeed, Jordi Gomez came close early on. Following some slack defending at the back, Rodallega had a chance to open up but was thwarted at the last by a combination of Rafael and Ferdinand. Ronnie Stam then found himself in a good position, but fazed by the moment blazed his shot wide.
Nani came closest from the United point of view with a curling left-footed attempt that only deflected off a defender for a corner. Another left winger then created the most magical moment of the first half, as Charles N’Zogbia danced past Carrick, Ferdinand and Vidic, only to hit hit shot at the on-rushing van der Sar. Just when it looked like the half was going to end with Wigan deservedly level, in true Manchester United style the visitors were dealt a hammer blow. Following a partially-cleared first opportunity, Ji-Sung Park swung in a lovely ball from the right and of all people, Patrice Evra was on hand to head in at the far post. It was his first goal in almost three years, and a moment to savour for the Frenchman surely.
The second half saw the Old Trafford return of Wayne Rooney, and his joint entrance with Paul Scholes certainly received a mixed response from the fans. Quite who the sparse cheers for is unknown, but in any case, it was a great management ploy by Sir Alex to bring him on with Paul Scholes. What followed in truth however was a succession of red cards for Wigan –first, captain Alcaraz for a second bookable offence, and then Hugo Rodallega for a two-footed challenge on Rafael. As a result the match as a competition was more or less over.
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Rooney came close to some reprieve moments after. Rafael floated in a delightful ball from the right, but Rooney’s header went straight at Ali Al-Habsi. But substitute Javier Hernández was the one to ultimately steal the limelight. Another Rafael cross, but this time Hernández’s technically perfect diving header flew low past the Wigan goalkeeper and into the net. There was certainly no way back for Wigan now, and with nine men, it was a matter of how many more goals United were going to get — none, as it eventually turned out, but there were a plethora of chances, most notably for Rooney, who scuffed from four yards, and Evra who drilled wide under no pressure. But perhaps hoping for two in a game from full-back who hadn’t scored for three years is just wishful thinking.
It was not the most memorable performance from United at Old Trafford by any means, and facing nine-man Wigan, fans certainly hoped for more goals. Ultimately however, three points are three points, and this was a great result following Chelsea‘s slip-up against Birmingham. Joint top now, still unbeaten, our players are slowly returning and we haven’t even hit top gear yet. Certainly, a lot of the doom and gloom from previous weeks is drifting.
Best Moment: Evra’s first goal in three years
Worst Moment(s): Everything up to the first goal
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Man of the Match: Rafael
Written by member Sownak27