Old Trafford, Manchester
November 20, 2010; 8:30 PM IST – Live on ESPN
Manchester United host Wigan in what has turned out to be a relatively easy fixture for them in the past. They have won all eleven of the previous meetings between the two sides, including a league cup final. The Red Devils have also put ten goals past the hapless Latics in the two games last season. The game will also be keenly viewed, as it could mark the return of Wayne Rooney for the first time since his contract saga.
United come into this game after another away draw against Aston Villa last week. Although United are the only team still unbeaten in England so far this season, yet Sir Alex would be far from happy as his side has managed to win just six games out of thirteen so far. With Arsenal having a small matter of North-London Derby on the weekend and Chelsea amidst an injury crisis, United will be hoping to gain some advantage in the title race.
Wigan, on the other hand, have been blowing hot and cold at the start of this campaign, as far as their form is concerned. Despite victories against Tottenham at White Hart Lane and an in form West Brom last week, the Latics are still one off the bottom, due to their lackluster performances in other matches. Roberto Martinez would be hoping for his side to show some consistency, especially after collecting four points in their last two games against Liverpool and West Brom.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Sir Alex has several players who could be doubtful after being involved in midweek for their respective countries. Rio Ferdinand has a groin strain and was substituted at half-time while playing for England. Fellow defender Chris Smalling is also a doubt after sustaining a similar injury in training. Nani’s fitness needs to be assessed before the game, but he is set to start the game. However, the biggest news of all is the return of Wayne Rooney. The striker has had a few weeks off due to an ankle injury, and it would be interesting to see how the Old Trafford faithful greet the boy wonder after his contract saga. Ryan Giggs and Rafael are still out, while Anderson, Hargreaves, Miachael Owen and Antonio Valencia continue to be long-term casualties.
With Ferdinand and Smalling injured, Wes Brown could partner Vidic in central defence ,with the versatile O’ Shea starting at right-back. Gabriel Obertan could start the game after his cameo against Aston Villa last week, while Paul Scholes is likely to start in midfield after being suspended for the last game. Hernandez and Berbatov are set to start up front, with Wayne Rooney likely to take his place on the bench. Once again, Nani should be the focal point of attack, as he has been so far this season.
The Latics would be without defender Gary Caldwell, who is out for six weeks with a thigh injury. There are several other players missing through injury as well for the away team, with Boyce, McCarthy and Pollitt out with long term injuries. Tom Cleverly is ineligible to play as he is on loan from United.
Steven Caldwell is likely to play in defence in absence of his brother Gary. Victor Moses, who scored the match-winner against West Brom after coming off the bench, is also set to start in place of Cleverly. Martinez is likely to play a 4-5-1 formation with Rodallega being the lone man up front.
Key Match Facts:
1) Wigan have scored just 10 goals – the least in the league.
2) They have never won a league game ‘away’ at any of the ‘Big Four’ in the Premier League.
3) United have scored at least twice in all games except against Manchester City and Sunderland.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Paul Scholes (Manchester United)
The midfield maestro has been the lynchpin of United’s central midfield so far this season. His absence in the last game was clearly felt, as Fletcher and Carrick failed to establish their authority against an inexperienced Villa midfield. Scholes usually bosses these games at Old Trafford, and it might be no different this time as well.
Manchester United 3-0 Wigan Athletic
Wigan is a team which can spring a surprise, but Old Trafford will be a bridge too far to cross over, especially with United winning all previous eleven meetings between the two sides. The home team will look to attack from the outset and claim an easy win.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST