Chicharito Brace Helps Restore Four-Point Advantage Over Arsenal
|(Javier Hernandez scores Manchester United's first goal)|
A Javier Hernandez brace saw Manchester
United swat aside Wigan Athletic and claim a four-point lead over
Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table.
The Mexican was
at his ruthless best as his strikes put United in control. Rooney then
found the net for just the seventh time this season in all competitions
before substitute Fabio put the icing on the cake.
hosts, manager Roberto Martinez made nine changes to the side that lost
1-0 in the F.A. Cup to Bolton Wanderers last week. In a repeat of the
team that drew 1-1 at Liverpool, Gary Caldwell and Mohamed Diame were
the only survivors from the previous match as star men such as Charles
N'Zogbia and Hugo Rodallega were restored to the starting line-up.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson made two changes to the side that drew 0-0 at Marseille in the Champions League on Wednesday. Javier Hernandez was selected in place of leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov, while Paul Scholes was tasked with pulling the strings in midfield in place of Darron Gibson.
Wigan - chasing a first point against United
in 11 meetings - started the brighter. In the sixth minute, Diame
picked up on a loose pass from Scholes in the middle of the pitch and
stretched his long legs and played in Rodallega.
Vidic on the cover, the Colombian's inviting low center was stabbed
away for a corner by John O'Shea with Victor Moses positioned
Serious questions were asked of referee Mark
Clattenburg a minute later as Wayne Rooney appeared to elbow James
McCarthy. With the DW Stadium crowd baying for blood, the official
chose instead to just blow for a free-kick rather than delve into his
pocket for a card.
The reprieve seemed to temporarily lift
United and a ball over the top from Rooney was scrambled into Darren
Fletcher's path in the penalty area. The Scot's cross was then inches
away from finding Hernandez.
United's grip was suddenly
threatened in the 12th minute when Scholes - who temporarily found
himself the right-back berth - uncharacteristically rushed a clearance
which cannoned off Moses' back. Clean through on goal, the ex-Crystal
Palace youngster was foiled by the giant frame of Edwin van der Sar.
game swung from end to end and Hernandez found himself one-on-one
against Maynor Figueroa, but the Honduras international stood his
ground and expertly tackled the Mexican.
wasn't to be kept out for long and he opened the scoring in the 17th
minute. Rooney - whose every touch was booed - played in Nani on the
left flank and the Portuguese's low cross was flicked in expertly by
the Mexican for his 12th goal of his promising debut campaign.
were unlucky to fall behind after they had set the pace for much of the
opening period. Immediately from the kick-off, a goal mouth scramble
saw the ball fall to McCarthy in space just five yards from goal but
van der Sar again smothered the threat.
An equaliser seemed more
likely than a second goal for United up until the 25 minute mark, but
then the 'Ginger Maestro' Scholes was allowed to get his foot on the
An excellent team move three minutes later - orchestrated
by the veteran playmaker - saw swift footwork from Fletcher and Rooney
lead to Nani collecting the ball on the charge. The winger unleashed a
fearsome drive that beat goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi but smashed back off
his near post to keep Wigan in the contest.
The Wigan crowd
again took issue with Clattenburg's refeering in the 35th minute when
Scholes committed a trademark late sweep through McCarthy's legs.
Despite the nature of the foul, the official again refused to show a
United continued to stay in control of proceedings for the
rest of the half as Ferguson - and on pitch general Scholes - dictated
United started much the brighter in the second period but
it was Wigan who first threatened through left-back Figueroa. The
Honduran requires no invite to strike from distance and a trademark
thunderbolt was palmed away to safety by van der Sar in the 47th minute.
was to be a highlight for the host's in the opening minutes of the
restart as their opponents grabbed a firm grip of the game. In the 52nd
minute, Nani twisted inside his marker and his shot from 10 yards on
the angle was almost deflected past Al Habsi by Caldwell.
had now picked up the pace and Wigan were just about holding on. In the
54th minute, goalscorer Hernandez almost set up Nani with a cross
before the Mexican struck the side-netting in the aftermath.
rare attack from Wigan followed as the ball was cleared forward. Vidic
was out-maneuvered by Rodallega as he attempted to clear, but Moses
could only fire a conversion effort worthy of Rugby League side Wigan
Warriors over van der Sar's crossbar.
Wigan looked ripe for the
kill by the league leaders and Nani and Fletcher almost sealed the win
in the 59th minute. First, Nani cut inside to hit a weak shot that was
spilled by Al Habsi, but he redeemed himself immediately by being quick
on his feet to keep out the Scot after he was played in by Rooney five
yards from goal.
The host's were unlucky to find United in
aggressive mode after a campaign pockmarked by poor away form. Ferguson
was desperate for his players to claim all three points and in the 72nd
minute Rooney twice went close to doubling the lead.
header from a Nani cross was cleared en-route to Al Habsi's goal by
Caldwell. In the ensuing play, he then harmlessly nodded the ball into
the Bolton loanee's hands from an O'Shea center.
While it proved to be another frustrating afternoon in front of goal for Rooney, he played a key role in Hernandez
securing his brace in the 74th minute. A long clearance from van der
Sar was brought under control by the number 10, who then proceeded to
play the Mexican clear through on goal with an incisive one-two.
Hernandez, with confidence souring through his system, then slotted past the Oman international.
Not satisfied with the lead, United continued to find holes in the Latics' porous defense. Rooney had
played second fiddle to Hernandez, but the Mexican's substitute
Berbatov set him up with a chance in the 84th minute that he couldn't
The Bulgarian was played in by a cutting long ball from
fellow replacement Gibson and unselfishly laid the ball to Rooney to
place into an open net.
A four-point lead over Arsenal at the top of the standings was now guaranteed and Fabio
mirrored this with the scoreline. A deep cross from Fletcher was too
hot for Rooney to handle but the Brazilian substitute picked up the
ball unmarked on the back stick with his first touch of the match to
make it 4-0.
Wigan had proved easy pickings for United. Ferguson
will hope his side can ride this wave past Chelsea and Liverpool in the
coming week to put one hand on the trophy.
|Javier Hernandez celebrates scoring|
|Manchester United's Wayne Rooney is tackled by Ben Watson of Wigan Athletic|
|Wigan Athletic's James McCarthy and Manchester United's Paul Scholes battle for the ball|
|Wigan Athletic's Victor Moses shoots at Manchester United's Edwin Van der Sar|