Preview: United v Wigan Athletic

Sir Alex Ferguson’s call for a “line to be drawn in the sand” over the mutual animosity between Liverpool and Manchester United fans dominated the day’s headlines. It is a malevolence that has led to some sections of each support using the deaths at Hillsborough and Munich to their own spiteful ends. And Ferguson’s is a call that will be severely tested in the hotbed atmosphere at Anfield in just over a week, when the abuse delivered will almost certainly be for the victim of racial abuse, Patrice Evra, rather than the memories of the dead.

But Anfield is for another day. On Saturday Ferguson has other concerns, with his squad returning from the international break fatigued, injured and, in some cases, without a match in two weeks; no wonder the Scot has little time for anything beyond the club game.

Indeed, the most poorly timed date in the international calendar may leave Ferguson without new acquisitions, Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, for the weekend clash with Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford.

van Persie played just half of Netherlands’ match with Hungary on Tuesday before withdrawing with a minor leg injury, while Kagawa missed Japan’s victory over Iraq during the week due to a sore back. Each is apparently fit, but with a Champions League match against Galatasary before the trip to Anfield, Ferguson may well be tempted to take no risks with either.

Elsewhere, United’s 70-year-old manager reported no fresh injury concerns, with Darren Fletcher set to join the match-day party, although the Scot’s participation in the match is thought unlikely. Fletcher has not played a first team game for United since November 2011.

Yet, it is with international travel that Ferguson is concerned most ahead of Wigan’s visit, with the core of his squad having departed across the world in the past fortnight.

“On the injury front, everyone’s fit, apart from the ones we know about – Jones and Smalling,” said Ferguson.

“Jones was a bad blow for us. He got an injury in training last weekend and he’ll be out for eight to 10 weeks. We expect Smalling to be back training by the end of the month. There’s a little bit of comfort in that sense, given our centre-back situation. But with Jonny [Evans] back we’re in a better position than we were a couple of weeks ago.

“You always have concerns about players travelling in international breaks – we had Chicharito, Valencia and Kagawa. They’ve all done it before, although with Shinji we don’t know exactly how he reacts to travelling back from long distances. Hopefully he’ll be okay.”

Manchester United v Wigan Athletic - Premier League - Old Trafford - 15 September 2012Ashley Young returns to the squad after missing England’s matches in the past week, while Ferguson will choose between the former Aston Villa man, Nani and Antonio Valencia in wide areas. Valencia’s lengthy trip to South America for two Ecuador matches in midweek may count against the 27-year-old, although much depends on the fitness or otherwise of van Persie and Kagawa, with Wayne Rooney unlikely to return this month.

“Wayne’s doing very well,” added Sir Alex.

“The scar’s healed well and he’s training terrifically. The issue now is when do we decide to bring him into the game? We have to take the medical advice on that one. He’s training very well but he’s not back in football training yet. All his work is being done with the physios at this point in time.”

Ferguson may choose to bring Paul Scholes into United’s midfield if Kagawa fails to make the game, with Tom Cleverley reprising his more advanced England role for United. The Reds’ manager must also choose between Anders Lindegaard and David de Gea behind a back-four that has leaked five goals this season.

Meanwhile, the few players remaining at Old Trafford – those not on international duty in the past week – were left to kick their heels with assistant manager Mike Phelan, with Ferguson landing in New York for Andy Murray’s US Open tennis final.

Indeed, old timers Rio Ferdinand, Scholes cand Ryan Giggs were among the few left at Carrington, and each could hit a milestone for the club against Wigan if selected. Ferdinand is approaching his 400th game in all competitions, Scholes his 700th, and for Giggs a 600th in the Premier League. None, it can be assumed, will have enjoyed training with the kids at a deserted Carrington.

“You really feel it when you’re not involved in international football,” admitted Ferdinand.

“You’re just sitting and waiting around thinking: ‘When is the next game coming?’ When the games are coming week in and week out, with two or three matches a week, this is the time when you enjoy it the most.”

Meanwhile, Roberto Martinez’ Wigan arrive having suffered just three defeats in the past 14 games – a sequence that included a devastating victory over United at the DW Stadium last April. United’s defeat to near-neighbours Wigan came as the Reds threw away an eight point lead during last season’s run-in.

But Martinez has also built a fine attacking side on a very limited budget, with the club’s best players poached by larger clubs each summer. Indeed, left-winger Victor Moses left for Chelsea in a £10 million deal during the latest transfer window, although the goalscorer from Wigan’s April victory, Shaun Maloney, remains at the club.

Wigan travel with few injury concerns, although the Latics may be without Jean Beausejour and Antolin Alcaraz. Midfielder James McArthur should be fit after recovering from a back injury.

Martinez can hardly afford any absentees given Wigan’s horrific record at Old Trafford since the Latics promotion to the nation’s top division.

“The last seven visits to Old Trafford have been a real uphill task for us; 24 goals conceded and one goal scored, from the penalty spot, tells its own story,” admitted Martinez.

It is a record that makes United firm favourites to secure a third Premier League win of the season. Yet, the clubs’ last meeting means few at Old Trafford will be counting the points secured just yet. That can wait until just before 5pm on Saturday afternoon.

Match Details
Manchester United v Wigan Athletic – Premier League, Old Trafford – Saturday 15 September 2012, 3pm

Possible Teams
United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Scholes, Carrick; Nani, Cleverley, Young; Welbeck. Subs from: Lindegaard, Evans, Büttner, Powell, Giggs, Anderson, Kagawa, Fletcher, Valencia, Van Persie, Macheda, Hernández, Bébé.

Wigan (3-5-2): Habsi; Boyce, Caldwell, Ramis; Miyachi, McArthur, McCarthy, Maloney, Figueroa; Di Santo, Koné. Subs from: Pollitt, Crusat, Gómez, Jones, Watson, Fyvie, Stam, McManaman, Boselli, Redmond, López, Kiernan, Mustoe.

Referee: M Oliver
Assistants: S Ledger, C Breakspear
Fourth Official: P Dowd

United: LWW
Wigan: LWWD

Last 10: United 9, Wigan 1, draw 0
Overall: United 14, Wigan 1, draw 0


  • Robin van Persie’s hat-trick against Southampton last week stole the points for United, but 45 per cent of the Dutchman’s 11 shots so far have been off target – unusually low for the normally accurate striker;
  • Michael Carrick has been the focal point of United’s midfield once against this season, having received the ball 285 times this season according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index;
  • Not only has Antonio Valencia provided the most crosses so far in the Premier League this season with 16, but the Ecuadorian has also made 55 successful passes in the attacking third of the pitch;
  • Martinez was disappointed that his side could not close out the game against Stoke City two week’s ago, with the match ending 2-2 despite goals from Shaun Maloney and Franco di Santo looking to have secured the win for the Latics;
  • Defender Ivan Ramis has produced some excellent defensive work so far this season, being successful with 90 per cent of his 10 tackles so far and conceding only two fouls;
  • Gary Caldwell will be looking for more consistency given his mixed start to the season – despite conceding fouls in 45 per cent of his challenges, the defender has contributed 10 clearances and 21 interceptions according to the Index;
  • Martinez will no doubt be pleased with the performances of Emmerson Boyce recently – the 33-year-old has provided 12 crosses this season already;
  • Boyce also ranks second in the Index for top speed recorded by any player this season with 23.07 mph;
  • Meanwile, Arouna Kone has shown a willingness to take the game to the opposition this season – he ranks first for total dribbles this season with seven.


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  • machedinho

    Love how SAF said every1 is fit when we all know there’s deffo 1 or 2 problems. It also amazes me how the journolists are so shit scared of Fergie haha. Not 1 of them questioned him properley about the injuries to RvP and Kagawa and Evra. It was just a quick few words from 1 journo that went something like this – “Sir Alex what’s the story with Kagawa and van Persie? Are they fit for tomorrows game” and when fergie said every1 is fit they all just shut up. Not 1 questioned Fergie properley. I mean if come on, both lads got proper knocks in the last few days…how can they both possible be fully fit?? Lol Fergie is a legend! Right at the end of the presser some journo asked about Bebe hahahahha and alll Fergie said was he was on International duty with Portugals U21′s. He probably still feels like a cunt for signing the guy.

    So assuming RvP and Kagawa are both fit and ready – here’s my starting XI – DDG, Rafa, Vidic, Rio, Buttner, Carrick, Anderson, Valencia, Nani, Kagawa, rvP

  • Joey Deacon

    Everyone is fit and well,except the ones that aren’t.

  • sidney

    Massively changed team

    Hopefully it won’t go tits up with Scholes being on the pitch

  • marlon

    Rafael Rio Vidic Buttner
    Carrick Scholes Giggs
    Nani Hernandez Welbeck

    433 or 442?
    Why no De Gea? No Evra (rested for Europe?), Anderson has a small knee problem (1 week).

    Subs: De Gea, Evans, Cleverley, Powell, Kagawa, Valencia, van Persie

    • Clive

      Erm – well De gea does make quite a few mistakes if we’re honest – I have to admit I tend to feel a bit more relaxed when Linegaard plays…

      but playing giggs and scholes is never a good sign

  • Simon

    Just heard the team news. Giggs, Scholes, Carrick and Nani in midfield. Chicarito and Danny up front. Buttner at left-back. Lightweight midfield for me against a possible 5. Nervous afternoon ahead. I don’t like Giggs and Scholes at the same time. Any other top team play a 35+ year old winger, or is Giggs playing in some sort of attacking centre mid? Might need some subs to rescue the day.

  • marlon

    if 442, Giggs might be there to play a little deeper and protect Buttner on his debut. I think we should stick with 433 and put Danny on the left. He’ll get used to it.

  • sidney

    Fergie is fucking De Gea about a bit

  • RobDiablo

    Wigan are going to look at that lineup and believe that they can come away with something today.

  • marlon

    European games would’ve been the obvious ones to give to Lindegaard, but with Fergie insisting he’ll play his strongest team this year, DDG surely has to start – more suited to CL with less aerial threat to deal with + greater emphasis on keeping possession. We may see Lindegaard getting PL game before or after CL games this season.

  • marlon

    Evra injured with France, not rested

  • Calvino

    Links please…

  • kramer

    brilliant, scholes and giggs starting, with welbeck and chicharito up front. we gonna get raped.

  • kramer

    Calvino said:
    Links please…

    check PM

  • sidney

    Wigan are shite at this time of year though remember

    They don’t even stand up to you

    They’ll play at 70% if Scholes keeps it and nobody fucks up, and we’ll win

  • kramer

    fuck! missed penalty

  • sidney

    Welbeck dives again

  • sidney

    Deserved to miss that pen, Welbeck dived

  • marlon

    Haha Crouch for Stoke 1-0

  • Violent Banana


  • Anantax

    Hmm….decent from us I thought but no real belief and edge in front of goal

    nani as always missing..screwed up a brilliant through pass from Giggs.

  • kramer

    we have no imagination or creativity these days, do we? the play is always ponderous, slow and uncertain.

  • madmax

    Shite atmosphere. Shite game. We are looking like a proper mid table team

  • sidney

    Nobody can be arsed today, it is Wigan after all, and it’s sunny

  • RobDiablo

    Fifteen minutes of RvP and Kagawa at the end of the match to grab all three points.

  • marlon

    Hernandez not involved at all (Lindegaard has had more passes) – slow build up does not suit him, although his penalty was the only shot on target so far. Welbeck played well but six shots, none on target. Giggs and Welbeck both playing in the middle – Buttner’s got the left all to himself.

  • Herbie Simms

    This team on the field reminds me of the same problems last season, no midfield and now no punch up front. Looks like everyone is being rested for the Champions league game when I thought winning back the EPL title was our priority. Lets hope for a better second half.

  • sidney

    Told ya

    Scholes again

    Class play from Nani

  • Violent Banana

    Great pass from Carrick to Nani in the build up

  • Anantax

    Scholesy! Nani decided to show up suddenly…

    Buttner so far so good..

  • sidney

    4 massive tackles


  • sidney

    1st gear, piss

  • Anantax

    Evra! Better get used to the bench!

  • sidney

    Hah stunning goal

  • Herbie Simms

    Buttner may have solved our left side problems.
    Good atacking left back.
    Its all over for Wigan now.

  • Anantax

    Powellllll!! In you go!

  • sidney

    City draw

  • kramer

    buttmeister! good second half.

  • Anantax

    Great day! Great 2nd half of the team

    Buttner was excellent.
    Powell looks pormising, what a cracker of a goal!
    Scholes good as usual. Have his tackling improved or is it just today?;)
    Carrick looked v comfortable…
    Lindegaard looks assured. I gotta say he’s less spectacular than DDG but I do feel safer when he’s between the posts
    Nani was missing for most of the game for me but the X faxtor showed up for the 1st goal….

    With City’s draw we are now above them…..the world is normal

  • kramer

    chelski and city draw, good stuff. gonna watch the liverpool game, hopefully they don’t score again.

  • marlon

    We scored with all our SOTs except Hernandez penalty. Only 5 out of 20 though. Nani and Welbeck finishing was very poor.
    Definitely less focus on keeping possession – played a more direct game today.
    Buttner did well but had no defending to do and completed 0 of his 7 crosses. Made things happen though.
    Aerially weak again – Rafael was the only starter who won an aerial duel in the game.
    Powell looked alright (and a great finish).
    Only Henriquez left of the summer signings to score now. CC vs. Newcastle?

  • Denton Davey

    Madmax @ 3:56: “Shite game. We are looking like a proper mid table team”

    Next time, wait until the game is over before making such an inane comment. If you check the EPL table, you’ll see that the “proper mid table team” is in the top three/four already and moving up to their usual place at the summit.

  • Violent Banana

    Nothing wrong with tempting fate Denton

    • Damian Garside

      Yes better to say ” we’re stuffed and not going to win a sausage” after 45 mins of unspectacular play, rather than ” we are going to walk the EPL and drill Barca and Real in the Champions” after half an hour of scintillating, dynamite stuff. That would be asking for it.

  • Herbie Simms

    If we get on top of the league early in the season, we will be there till the end. All the new signings that have played have so far have shown their worth. Soon we will see Henriquez in action. Still need to get the midfield together though and Wellbeck still got some work to do.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    why is welbeck suddenly cheating

  • sidney

    Two embarrassing dives

    I blame Young

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Desperate to keep his place in the team.

  • Damian Garside

    Hey Alf u posted this twice coz u desperate 2 keep yr place on the blog?

  • Minus The Bear

    Martinez seems to have forgotten last season at the DW when Figeroa practically caught the ball from a Jones cross but got away with it. Shit happens, Welbeck went down too easily because he was anticapating Al Habsi coming and cleaning him out, you look like a fool when they pull out, but look like a cheater when a penalty is awarded for it. I’m not condoning diving but the disputes and disagreements are what makes football.

  • Denton Davey

    Sidney @ 3:05: “Welbeck dives again”

    I disagree – Al Habsi’s legs side-swiped DannyTheLad.

    On a related note, I don’t like it when there’s a penalty-shot awarded because a player was brought down in the box yet the player had no chance of scoring. It’s far too draconian. I’d much prefer one of those direct free-kick situations from the spot of the foul.

    But, like the off-sides rule which is also very poorly designed and frequently-wrongly interpreted, there’s no chance that the in-the-box penalty won’t be awarded with a shot from the spot.

    • Todd

      I thought replays showed that Al Habsi nicked Welbeck’s foot. Perhaps not quite enough to upend him, but today that is going to be given as a penalty.
      The bigger question should be, what was Al Habsi doing out there? The speed Welbeck was going all he would’ve needed to do was come out and force him to knock the ball out. He did not need to get close enough to give the ref a reason to give the penalty.
      In the end it all worked as Chicharito had the penalty saved and United went on to dominate the match and get the deserved win.

  • squigs

    Welbeck is an out and out diver. Did it for England during the week as well. Ronaldo got stick over much much less years ago. Welbeck is clearly cheating.

  • sidney

    Young had to weather a shit storm for diving a couple of times last season

    Welbeck gets away with it because he’s young, more talented and has ridiculous but cool hair

  • DamnedUnited

    I fuckin’ despise Roberto Martinez. The guy is always moaning about refereeing decisions, always against United and always gets away with it.

    Why doesn’t he moan about it when decisions go against him when playing against other teams? Why doesn’t he speak out when decisions go for him?

    The myth that United get away with decisions is so laughable and people just have to pick any Chelsea match to see how many penalties they get.

  • threadoflength

    Commenter said:
    I fuckin’ despise Roberto Martinez. The guy is always moaning about refereeing decisions, always against United and always gets away with it.

    Why doesn’t he moan about it when decisions go against him when playing against other teams? Why doesn’t he speak out when decisions go for him?

    The myth that United get away with decisions is so laughable and people just have to pick any Chelsea match to see how many penalties they get.

    Agreed. The reporter asked him why Wigan never win at OT and all he goes on about is the penalty call in the 4th minute that wasn’t even converted… Never mind the 4 goals that your defense actually let in, just focus on one refereeing “mistake” from the opening 5 minutes. Laughable.

    Also where is that guy who was calling Buttner not good enough when i suggested starting him in this game 2 weeks ago?

  • Wil

    It wasn’t a great performance from United despite the scoreline. The first half was overall poor. Play was slow and United didn’t look like they were going to score. Second half was much better and glad to see Nani & Buttner creating chances for others and getting more direct.

    Nani is seriously much better off on the right… I just hope to see it’s either Valencia or Nani starting on the right this season with Young & Giggs fighting it out on the left.

    However, what I don’t understand is the midfield. Scholes is great and he’s a true legend. But I rather see him make an impact like at Southampton than having Scholes & Carrick start together. Ferguson was saying he wants to play fast, one touches and direct but he puts the slowest midfield pairing out again (+ Giggs who is no longer in his 20s!). He sold Berbatov because he slows things down but how can Scholes + Carrick + Giggs = speed? I still trust Fergie and I’m sure he knows what’s he doing but I would love to see him play the team with speed sooner and in more games!

    Glad Powell scored on his debut and hopefully this will give him confidence to continuing growing. Saw too little of him yesterday to comment much but I’m sure Ferguson is the right man to groom him and Jones for the near future.

  • madmax

    Commenter said:
    Madmax @ 3:56: “Shite game. We are looking like a proper mid table team”

    Next time, wait until the game is over before making such an inane comment. If you check the EPL table, you’ll see that the “proper mid table team” is in the top three/four already and moving up to their usual place at the summit.

    So a decent half against makes us suddenly world beaters? Despite the win we were utter utter shite in the first half. Yes I’d take the win and we were better in the second half but we are not one of the top teams in Europe.

  • Denton Davey

    madmax @ 7:46: “Despite the win we were utter utter shite in the first half. Yes I’d take the win and we were better in the second half but we are not one of the top teams in Europe.”

    Well, at the moment, UTD are doing better than the defending (goal-difference) EPL champions and also last year’s La Liga champions. So, considering that those two clubs would both be in a proper Champions’ League competition – and UTD would not – I’d say that you are suffering from a case of “pre-mature ejaculation caused a deluded sense of entitlement”. You might enjoy the game – yes, it’s still a game no matter what Bill Shankly said about it being more important than life or death – if you look on the bright side and see positives as well as trying to just enjoying the ride.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    squigs said:
    Welbeck is an out and out diver. Did it for England during the week as well. Ronaldo got stick over much much less years ago. Welbeck is clearly cheating.