Evra 45+1, Hernandez 77
WIGAN ATHLETIC 0
In going level on points with Chelsea at the top of the Premier League, Manchester United has been given a real boost in the title race. However, after another win which highlighted many of the deficiencies in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, the United fans might well be questioning whether their side has the capabilities to capitalise on a poor run of form for their two main challengers.
Wigan looked the more likely side to score in a drab first half which again saw problems with the United centre-half partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Hugo Rodallega often found himself in acres of space in a simple position in between the two United centre-halves, exploiting a big gap between the pair. This was a problem at Aston Villa last weekend and is something which the two need to sure up if United are to capitalise on being the only unbeaten side in the Premier League. The pair were far more comfortable in the second half but this was as much down to the Wigan ranks being depleted following two red cards rather than Vidic and Ferdinand tightening things up.
One of the most disappointing aspects of United’s season has been the inability to create on the edge of the opposition penalty area in the absence of Paul Scholes. During the first half United continually lost possession on the edge of the box, running into the Wigan rearguard. There was no subtlety to find the key ball to unlock the defence. Wide players often chose to come inside to a congested area and subsequently lost the ball. When Scholes was introduced in the second half, United were able to turn the screw and took Roberto Martinez’s team apart at will. Again this may have been down to Wigan only playing with nine, but there is no doubting the influence which Scholes has on this United side. As fortunate as United may be to be able to rely on Scholes, there has to be a game plan for when he is not involved. If this is not developed now while he is still in and around the squad, United will be left high and dry with no alternative when he is no longer available.
One thing which does seem to be going in United’s favour is the wealth of attacking talent at Ferguson’s disposal. Federico Macheda was quiet in this encounter, but showed at Villa Park last weekend when given a chance he is a top finisher. Another player given his chance after impressing when used as a substitute last week was Gabriel Obertan. The Frenchman was frustrating at times but in the opinion of this writer has done enough to show in recent matches to show he has the potential to be a hit at Old Trafford. Javier Hernandez again showed his eye for goal with a smart finish although the young Mexican should have claimed another when missing poorly at the far post. Throw in the impressive Danny Welbeck, on loan at Sunderland, into the equation it looks as if United will be strong in years to come.
In a game which saw Wayne Rooney return with a quiet substitute performance, Ferguson will feel pleased with the potential of his forward players although a better end product than what was shown in this encounter is certainly needed. However, problems further back will surely be worrying the Scot.
1 Van der Sar
21 Rafael – 15 Vidic – 5 Ferdinand – 3 Evra
17 Nani – 24 Fletcher 16 Carrick – 13 Park
26 Obertan – 27 Macheda
56– 18 Scholes on for 13 Park
56 – 10 Rooney on for 27 Macheda
64 – 14 Hernandez on for 16 Carrick