Preview: Wigan Athletic v United

New year, same old goal: securing the Premier League title come May, starting with Manchester United’s visit to Wigan Athletic this weekend. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men play the first game of 2013, and the fourth of the festive period, at DW Stadium on Tuesday, seeking to consolidate a seven point lead over rivals Manchester City in the Premier League.

Victories over Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion, together with the draw at Swansea City, have earned Sir Alex Ferguson’s men some breathing room in this year’s title race, although few in the Scot’s side will assume the silverware is secure after last season’s experience.  United’s loss at Wigan last April was a significant contributing factor in City’s erosion of the Reds’ eight point Premier League lead.

Ferguson, who turned 71 on Monday, is likely to be further rotate his resources at Wigan after a bruising period, which continues with United’s visit to Upton Park for the FA Cup third round tie next weekend.

The Scot has previously stated that none of his squad will play all four matches over Christmas, leaving Antonio Valencia, Patrice Evra and David de Gea vulnerable to rotation, while captain Nemanja Vidić is unlikely to be risked. The giant Serbian, who has suffered two serious knee injuries in the past year, is taking advice from his doctor over which matches he plays for the Reds.

Rio Ferdinand may return to the starting side alongside Jonny Evans, while Rafael da Silva and Phil Jones may both be available for the clash with relegation-threatened Wigan. Meanwhile, Ferguson could recall a quartet of players who dropped to the bench for United’s victory over West Brom on Saturday.

“Phil could be ready and Rafa will be ready,” confirmed Ferguson. “We rested Robin, Chicharito, Ryan and Paul against West Brom so we’ve got enough freshness to bring in. Wigan had a great result [winning 3-0 at Aston Villa] – it’ll be a hard game on Tuesday.

Wigan Athletic v Manchester United - Premier League, DW Stadium - 1 January 2013, 3pmUnited’s strength-in-depth has been tested once again this season, with rounds of injuries in both defence and midfield depleting Ferguson’s resources for long stretches. Returning players should bring the Scot’s compliment to near full-strength for the short trip to Wigan, with perhaps only Nani missing from the match-day party.

“The strength of the squad is important,” said captain Vidić, who missed the second half of last season and three months of this campaign.

“The gaffer has always managed to do well with so many players. It has worked well for us, especially when you look at the injuries we have had over the last few years. We have had a lot of injuries in the past. We should look at doing something about that.”

Meanwhile, City host Stoke City at Eastlands, increasing the pressure on United to improve on last season’s result at Wigan; the 1-0 defeat was United’s first in 16 matches against the Latics. Roberto Mancini’s men secured victory over Norwich City last weekend, after the damaging loss at Sunderland, restricting United’s lead to seven points heading into the new year.

“It is good to have this advantage, but we have to be careful” adds Vidić.

“There is still a long way to go. We have the experience of last year when we were eight points in front and in the end it didn’t finish well. I think this season is different. We are more mature. That is a big help for the team.”

Ferguson can also look back on the clean sheet against West Brom with some satisfaction – it was just the fifth of the campaign in all competitions. The Reds muted attacking performance, especially in the second half against the Baggies, undoubtedly contributed to a greater sense of security at the back – a balance that United is yet to fully strike this season.

Still, with United significantly ahead of expectations coming into a traditionally strong period for Ferguson’s teams there is a growing sense of confidence at Old Trafford despite last season’s collapse.

“We know that if we go on a run of 10 or 12 games we’re going to have a great chance of winning something,” admits veteran winger Ryan Giggs.

“We know it’s a key time and we’ve got to start performing and there can be no mistakes. Usually when the stakes are high and the concentration is there, good players produce the goods. We were probably this many points ahead with less games to go last season so we’re only halfway there and there are a lot of tough games to come.”

Meanwhile, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has no fresh injury concerns ahead of Tuesday’s match. Defender Ivan Ramis completed the victory over Aston Villa on Saturday after over-coming a hamstring injury, although Ben Watson, Albert Crusat, Ryo Miyaichi, Adrian Lopez are all out.

The Latics ended a six-game win-less run in the league with a 3-0 victory over Villa, keeping a clean sheet for just the third time this season. Yet, with just one victory at home since 27 October, Martinez’ side has once again been dragged into a relegation fight.

Yet, while United and Wigan lie at opposition ends of the league table each side has developed an uncomfortable habit of falling behind. Wigan has conceded the opening goal in 13 league games this season, losing a dozen. Meanwhile, United’s ability to recover has secured eight victories from behind this season.

“If we stop giving away goals then we’ve got a great chance this season because we’ve got plenty of goals up front,” concluded Ferguson.

“The fans are enjoying it and in terms of a worldwide audience they’ll be turning their TVs on, whether they’re in America or Australia, to see another 4-3. I think you just get immune to it all as a manager. You only enjoy the high-scoring games when you come back to win them.”

Despite that Ferguson will gleefully settle for another low scoring victory on Tuesday. With a clean sheet, of course.

Match Details
Wigan Athletic v Manchester United – Premier League, DW Stadium – Tuesday 1 January 2013, 3pm

Possible teams
Wigan (3-4-3): Al Habsi; Caldwell, Boyce, Ramis; Beausejour, McCarthy, Jones, Figueroa; Kone, Di Santo, Maloney. Subs from: Pollitt, Stam, Golobart, Gomez, McArthur, McManaman, Boselli, Orsula, Morris, Fyvie, Redmond, Mustoe

United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Büttner; Carrick, Scholes; Young, van Persie, Giggs; Hernández. Subs from: Lindegaard, Wootton, Evra, Smalling, Vidić, Cleverley, Kagawa, Valencia, Welbeck, Powell, Macheda

Officials
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistants: M McDonough, R West
Fourth official: N Swarbrick

Form
Wigan: LDLLLW
United: LWWDWW

Head to Head
Last 10: Wigan 1, United 9, Draw 0
Overall: Wigan 1, United 15, Draw 0

Prediction
1-2

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Comments

  1. Banforth says

    Another howler in the making if fergie opts for scholes in a midfield 2 (usual mantra). The lesson of the season is that this should be avoided for all but the most facile of home games (even then..). Play your strongest team today and make your sacrifices in the west ham fa cup game, if you have to….

  2. han says

    have to agree with you
    scholes and giggs should only be used as late subs or when united are 5-0 up
    if either starts today it is going to be a long afternoon

  3. han says

    Minus The Bear said:
    Long afternoon then Han.

    on current form (which doesn’t say too much) Giggs is probably less of a liability by a couple of hairs

  4. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Van Persie is just fuckin awesome.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  5. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    sidney said:
    Can’t get a decent stream, really fucking me off

    Is it the number of viewers that makes the streams for United matches so bad? I’m having to watch a Spanish language broadcast just to get a picture that doesn’t constantly start-stop. I don’t have this problem watching streams that don’t involve United.

  6. sheesh says

    Stoke are useless in their game v City.
    I’m not watching the United match but I get the impression that we’re putting in an efficient performance. Should be all over if we can get one more goal.

  7. Minus The Bear says

    If anyone hasn’t seen it I’d suggest searching on twitter for the photo of Diouf and a Leeds fan dressed up as his idol. Welcome to 2013.

  8. Sidsidney says

    RobDiablo said:
    Is it the number of viewers that makes the streams for United matches so bad? I’m having to watch a Spanish language broadcast just to get a picture that doesn’t constantly start-stop. I don’t have this problem watching streams that don’t involve United.

    Aye, probably. But also I was reading in 442 mag that tens of thousands of streams get shut down during a game, and many of them are turned off moments before a game or a couple of minutes into a game – just to piss people off, presumably. So that explains why so many links don’t work. And with United being one of the most popular clubs, I assume they’re more inclined to turn off our streams than a stream for… Hull.

  9. han says

    how did we lose to this sack of shit in April? blame the players 100% for that
    still, 4-0 is a decent retribution

  10. baloobaloo says

    Excellent result – worked really hard for that today. Defensively excellent throughout the whole team.

    Well pleased. Great start to the new year.

  11. AnantaxAnantax says

    Great result. Quiet first half hour then we burst to life
    Everyone played well….except Smalling!
    Great clean sheet as well but the best thing is the lack of real chances Wigan had
    That 1st RVP goal is just pure class…
    Playing well at last and 2 clean sheets in a row…bring on Liverpool!

  12. marlon says

    Comfortable win. We’ve barely missed Rooney. Odd decision to bring Kagawa on at CM, especially considering we had Scholes on the bench. Great to have Rafael back.

  13. Violent Banana says

    They’ve had quite a few dodgy pens this season…

    It was almost too easy once we finally got going. Loving the Carrick/Cleverley partnership; and we’re looking solid at the back.

    Should see changes for the West Ham game after that hectic festive schedule.

  14. Denton Davey says

    Anantax @ 5:54: “Everyone played well….except Smalling!”

    BigManSmalling should have been red-carded and also gave the ball away in a dangerous situation; so, he was marginally worse than AshleyBloodyYoung who had one moment of brilliance – his cross to Chicharito in the 59th minute – but, otherwise, gave the ball away, passed to opponents and essentially drained the UTD-attack of drive and energy.

    This was the third or fourth match in a row in which he’s been playing because there’s no one else – and, for the third/fourth match in a row his presence has been like a ball-and-chain. The only good thing I can say about Young’s performance today is that he never missed a point-blank chance – only because he never got himself into position to fuck one up.

    The rumour that Nani will be sold – giving AshleyBloodyYoung more playing time – is very worrying. Nani can be ‘frustrating” but he’s a bag of tricks – no need to say more about the imposter in the # 18 red shirt.

    • Mongoletsi says

      “BigManSmalling”, “AshleyBloodyYoung”… were you born a pathetic cunt or did you work hard at it>

  15. AnantaxAnantax says

    marlon said:
    Comfortable win. We’ve barely missed Rooney. Odd decision to bring Kagawa on at CM, especially considering we had Scholes on the bench. Great to have Rafael back.

    I thiink its a great move to get his match fitness and shArpness up

    Esp given we were in fulll control then…no need for Scholes

  16. marlon says

    Anantax said:
    I thiink its a great move to get his match fitness and shArpness up

    Esp given we were in fulll control then…no need for Scholes

    Fair enough. My concern was that with Rooney not out for long, Kagawa will barely get to play in his favoured position. Carrick obviously needed the rest more than van Persie though so I understand the decision from that point of view. I was surprised that Giggs didn’t move to CM after the sub – maybe Fergie has learnt he’s not a CM.

  17. han says

    Commenter said:
    “BigManSmalling”, “AshleyBloodyYoung”… were you born a pathetic cunt or did you work hard at it>

    easy mongo, easy lad

  18. Denton Davey says

    Mongoletsi @ 5:42: “were you born a pathetic cunt or did you work hard at it”

    Mostly I work hard at it to infuriate guys like you.

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