|photo by kevindooley||via PhotoRee|
Manchester United began the New Year with a clear statement of intent -- here's how it went down....
Minutes 0- 10: The opening ten was even steven, with Wigan giving as good as they got, maybe even having the slightest of advantages. There were no real chances for either side as they both eased their way into the New Year's Day contest. Lots of open space on the pitch.
Minutes 10- 20: Chicharito had an offside goal overturned, but the striker's clean finish showed the Little Pea has hit the same sparkling vein of form he displayed in the 2010/11 season. Otherwise the action was slow to develop, with both goalkeepers acting largely as spectators.
Minutes 20-30: An Ashley Young penalty shout was denied as both sides settled into the match. United struggled to create opportunities in the Wigan box, with Van Persie and Chicharito reduced to bit roles. A fizzing Giggs' cross was the first sign that the Reds were beginning to turn up the heat, while only a full pitch sprint from Jonny Evans saved United from a dangerous Wigan counter. Just before the half hour mark Giggs was unable to turn in a Van Persie cross, but the eagerly anticipated opener appeared to be getting closer.
Minutes 30-40: Wigan 'keeper Ali Al-Habsi appeared as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, as United sought to sustain their first period of real pressure in the match. The corners mounted, and after Wigan bungled a clearance, Chicharito -- right place, right time, yet again -- turned in a deflected Patrice Evra shot for a deserved United lead on 35 minutes. Wigan continued to offer their own offensive efforts, but the United defense -- led by Ferdinand and Evans -- appeared exceptionally solid.
Minutes 40-45: Chicharito to Robin Van Persie was as good as it gets for the game's second goal. Unlike the rested Antonio Valencia, the Dutchman didn't even need his left foot, controlling the Mexican's pass and shuffling it to his "less good" right foot before curling it past Al-Habsi. Despite taking a half hour to warm up, the visitors appeared good value for their 2-nil lead when the teams headed off the locker room.
Minutes 45-55: Turnovers galore greeted both teams upon their return to the pitch, with Michael Carrick making himself stand out through a number of nice interceptions. Chich misfired a just-too-long RVP pass from out wide, with the Mexican's speed unsettling an opposition defense not for the first time.
Minutes 55-65: A Wigan goal was correctly ruled offside, as Aruna Kone began his run a bit too early before turning in the cross. Chicharito's brace attempt was legged just over the bar, but the inevitable was not denied, only postponed. The Little Pea's second goal of the game came in the 64th minute, as he knocked in a deflected RVP free kick to kill off any hopes of a Wigan come back.
Minutes 65-75: RVP gave Al-Habsi yet another scare, but the Dutchman's potential double sailed over the top of the bar. With a seemingly comfortable lead, Sir Alex went into rotation mode, exchanging Carrick and Ferdinand for Kagawa and Smalling. The away crowd, heavy in numbers for a holiday game at the nearby DW Stadium, performed their own rotation, singing through the entire United songbook to cheer on their team.
Minutes 75-85: Ashley Young pulled up limping and was forced off the pitch in favor of Danny Welbeck. An immediate Welbeck penalty was denied by Andre Marriner, but the Referee also spared Chris Smalling from a sending off when he declined to brandish a red card for the newly inserted defender's last-man pull down of Kone. De Gea kept his shutout alive by the thinnest of margins, as Jordi Gomez's free kick was only inches wide of the mark.
Minutes 85-90: Wigan were determined to finish the game the brighter of the two sides, but it was United with the last laugh: Welbeck to RVP for the easiest goal of the afternoon. At the final whistle, it wa 4-0 to the visitors, who comfortably maintained their seven point lead at the top of the table heading into the two week break.
This is farlieonfootie for January 2.
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