Wigan Athletic 0 – 5 Manchester United
Goals: Rooney (56, 65) Berbatov (58) Owen (85), Nani (90)
Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner,, Bramble, Figueroa, N’Zogbia, Thomas, Diame, Koumas, Gomez, Rodallega
Subs: Scotland for N’Zogbia ( ), McCarthy for Diame ( )
Man United: Foster; Neville (c), Vidic, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Scholes, Fletcher, Nani; Rooney, Berbatov.
Subs: Owen for Rooney, Gibson for Scholes, O’Shea for Evans (72 mins)
SEVEN changes to the team that started the dire display at Burnley in midweek, is more than enough indication to show that the Boss was not happy with the state of things. Ben Foster continued in goal, Nani returns on the left and Paul Scholes comes into midfield with Darren Fletcher also back. Dimitar Berbatov was given the nod over Michael Owen to partner Rooney up front, and Antonio Valencia was back at his former club. Perhaps most important of all; Nemanja Vidic was making his first start of the season having recovered from an injury which kept him away from pre season action.
Paul Scholes looked inventive early on as United took on a focused approach as if to excorsise the ghost of Turf Moor. While Wigan tried to keep some tame possession but Antonio Valencia closed them down and the ball found Wayne Rooney, Rooney was alive to the possibilities and fed Berbatov. From here came the best chance Darren Fletcher has had to score since the last one he had, Berbatov found Nani on the wing and the winger slid a simple ball across to the Scotsman and you can be sure Fletcher is still wondering how he didn’t find the net. The reason was one Titus Bramble coming behind his beaten ‘keeper to block the attempt. The signs were looking good and got even better when Fletcher turned provider; his through ball was back heeled by Berbatov into the path of Paul Scholes. It was the perfect build up for a perfect Paul Scholes chance but on this occasion the ball was sent over the bar from close range.
At the back it was good to have Vidic back and gave a solid performance throughout the game, Gary Neville however, had some poor moments. In the first half it was our captain who gave away a few needless freekicks and hurried a few clearances as Wigan looked to take advantage of the fact that United had, for all their promise, yet to find a breakthrough. Neville clattered into Jason Koumas before Koumas crossed into the box for a ‘penalty appeal’ that only Wigan’s Gomez seemed interested in. Neville also gifted the ball to Koumas as the midfielder unleashed a curling shot; a fantastic save from Ben Foster kept Wigan at bay.
Paul Scholes was guilty of a ‘late arrival’ on Gomez and from the resulting N’Zogbia free kick Johnny Evans took one for the team as ball met nose. Wigan failed to make anything of the corner that followed but the action as was definatly end to end as Wayne Rooney was caught off side trying to counter attack. He later drew a save from Kirkland as he looked to score his one hundredth goal for the club and Nemanja Vidic (again) was to thank for denying both Gomez and N’Zogbia chances to give Wigan the lead.
All the talk going into the game was of how United needed to take chances and show a sharper edge. Wigan, while fearing the reaction of the wounded Man United animal were still very much in the game as the second half got under way.
Nani’s cross was headed down by Valencia for an acrobatic volley by Wayne Rooney, that shot and a Berbatov attempt were denied once again by your friend and mine, Titus Bramble. At the other end Patrice Evra took a yellow card to stop N’Zogbia and an almost certain one on one with Ben Foster. Paul Scharner headed on goal from the free kick and Ben Foster decided to get himself one for the cameras with dive across his net to deny.
The Wigan resistance was eventually broken by a strong and well directed Wayne Rooney header from a Valencia cross, the breakthrough had been made but neither Wigan nor the Champions were about to call it quits. Rodallega’s header drew a brilliant save from Foster before United went further ahead in the most delicate of fashions. Berbatov found Wayne Rooney who in turn found Paul Scholes, it was an inch perfect chiped pass from Scholes back to Berbatov who dinked the ball over Chris Kirkland and watched it come down to place the ball into an open net. Two- Nil. Game over. After Burnley, United fans had every right to demand more. It was turning into a perfect day for the men from Manchester; Rooney had his landmark goal, Foster was making some class saves and the Notorious B.E.R.B.A had also found the net… if we were being very picky, it needed Michael Owen to come on and settle his own stomach, so to speak. After a Rooney shot deflected of Melchiot for 3:0, the new number seven arrived.
Owen’s goal was beautiful when it arrived. Dimitar Berbatov pressured Gomez and found Nani, Nani saw Owen run across him into space and delivered the perfect pass for Owen to play it first time accross Kirkland into the far corner. He was happy, the fans’ saluted him and all was right with the world again. Oh, and in almost the last kick of the game a Portugese United winger scored with a brilliant free kick, that sounds familiar doesn’t it? Make no mistake though, this was Nani’s goal.
All that and a clean sheet. Well, we’ve had worse days.
In a bit. GtS