Saturday morning’s Manchester United v Wigan match was very much a tale of two halves. After a scoreless, uninspired first half, Sir Alex Ferguson almost certainly gave Man Utd the infamous hairdryer treatment as they returned to the pitch a completely different team. In the second 45 minutes United found the back of Wigan’s net four times to capitalize on Manchester City’s and Chelsea’s dropped points. In doing so, Manchester United jumped within one point of the Blues atop the table. Take a look at the Manchester United v Wigan goals and highlights video below, and keep reading for more analysis of the match.
Manchester United (4) v Wigan (0) Goals and Highlights [VIDEO]
Between injuries and poor performances of late, the Red Devils came out with a redesigned lineup at home against Wigan. Recently-signed left back Alex Buttner started in place of Patrice Evra, Rafael featured at right back for Valencia, Van Persie and Kagawa started on the bench (RVP entered the game later), and Welbeck and Chicharito manned the attack.
It was clear that Sir Alex Ferguson was looking to accomplish more than simply win the match. After nearly every starter featured for their national teams during the break, and with the Champions League starting in a matter of days, it seemed Fergie was looking to heal wounds (RVP, Kagawa, Evra), save legs (removing Scholes and Giggs early), test talent (starting Buttner and giving Powell an extended run), and maintain team chemistry (roster Fletcher so he can sit on the sideline with the team).
United were lackluster in the first half. Hernandez’s miss at the spot is inexcusable. Not enough power, too far from the post, and he should’ve done better changing sides after Wigan’s keeper jumped early. United missed more than their share of penalties in preseason. Have they not learned their lesson after losing the League on goal differential?
Hernandez’s penalty came only 5 minutes into the half, and the team failed to pick up their play for the rest of the half. They still dominated the run of play (Wigan is..well..Wigan), but rarely created scoring opportunities. Plenty of possession, few miscues and breakdowns, but generally uninspired play.
Credit should be given to Wigan and Roberto Martinez, though. The manager’s impact on the team is undeniable. When they were at their best they were able to challenge United, push them back into their own box, and create a few chances. They did well to possess the ball at times, and played a good bit of creative, one-touch football.
If any game were to be called upon as proof of Fergie’s hairdryer treatment (the term the players use to refer to the manager’s furious screaming in the locker room at halftime), this would be it. From the start of the second half, United came out firing on all cylinders. From striker to sweeper they sprinted down every ball, pressured every pass, and challenged every 50/50 with 10 times the intensity they displayed in the first half.
Their efforts paid off quickly and often. Wigan could do nothing but play on their heels, and United capitalized by scoring in the 51st (Scholes), 63rd (Hernandez), 66th (Buttner), and 83rd (Powell).
The tale of two halves is frustrating, but there were plenty of positives that came from the match by the time the final whistle blew. Here are a few:
Nani: After a dreadful performance in the first match, and a slight pick-up in his play in the second, Nani played very well against Wigan. He took defenders on from the midfield as well as in the attacking third (even made a few look stupid) and served accurate crosses. Considering the recent commotion about his contract and rumored plans to dump him, it was great to see the Portuguese winger get in a rhythm on the pitch.
Buttner: Recent signing Alexander Buttner did much more than simply fill the shoes of Patrice Evra. He showed patience and adept timing on defense, he made dangerous runs down the flank, served in challenging crosses, and displayed great skill on his goal. We’ll have to see how he plays in a more difficult match, but he looked class in today’s victory.
Welbeck – Danny would be my man of the match if I had to pick one. He technically featured as a midfielder, and often made runs into the midfield, but he was much more of a withdrawn striker. Much of United’s offense in the game went through Welbeck. He did well to check back to the ball, hold passes from the central midfield, lay them off then spin, and simply spin with the ball himself. It felt as though every pass that entered the middle of the attacking third of the pitch touched Danny. He created a number of opportunities as well, both in the air and on the ground. With so much offensive firepower competing for playing time, Welbeck did well to solidify at least a tertiary role.
Moving past the sluggish performance in the first half, United head into their Champions League match against Galatasary with momentum.
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