Wigan Athletic v Man United Preview: Time To Tighten The Stranglehold On The Pole Position




DW Stadium, Wigan
February 26, 2011, 15:30 PM GMT


It’s that time of the season, which is called the ‘squeaky bum time’ by Sir Alex. It’s a time when the pressure mounts in pursuit of the championship. The Red Devils will travel to the DW stadium, which is less than 16 miles from their Old Trafford home. Sir Alex’s men travelled away to Marseille in France during the week for their Champions League clash with the French outfit. The game ended in a dull stalemate, with both teams serving up dreadful 90 minutes of absolutely zilch goal-mouth action. The clash with Roberto Martinez’s Wigan side is the second of the four consecutive away days for ‘Fergie’s red army’ and with Wenger’s Arsenal side wining their league encounter against Stoke, pressure is right back on the Old Trafford outfit. Adding to United’s concern is the impending mid-week clash with Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea side, with an eye on the battle at the Bridge; United would do well not to lose focus at the DW.

Wigan have other fears clouding their minds, the ‘R’ word is very much in each and every Latics psyche. Martinez’s side earned a credible and a hard fought point in their last league encounter with in-form Liverpool and that should give them encouragement to build on that performance. However, the Latics have a horrendous record against United, never in their Premier league history have Wigan secured even a point against Sir Alex.

Team news and Tactical Brief

Manchester United

Over the last few days, United have been battered and bruised with knocks and long term injuries plaguing the squad. With the title run in well and truly underway, Fergie would be looking to rotate his squad and keep things as fresh as he can. Ryan Giggs should be back after missing out on the trip to France. United still have Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans out due to injuries and would be relying on the ever improving Chris Smalling to partner captain Nemanja Vidic. Valencia is making rapid progress in training; however, the trip to Wigan is too soon for him to make his much awaited comeback. Anderson and Park are out for another couple of week’s at least.

The trip to London the following midweek could and most likely would make a difference to Sir Alex’s team selection. Paul Scholes might start in the midfield as United have looked short on the creativity front in the absence of the United legend. Nani is almost a certainty to start on the right wing as he remains Man United most potent weapon in the armoury. Hernandez hasn’t featured lately in Sir Alex’s plan and could come in if the gaffer decides to rest either of two regular front men, Dimitar Berbatov or Wayne Rooney. Patrice Evra might need a breather too as he has at times been overburdened with  almost no respite; would Sir Alex gamble with the inexperienced Fabio DaSilva remains to be seen.

Nani – the most potent weapon in the United armoury

United would most likely line up in their customary 4-4-2 and look to attack from the outset. Hugo Rodallega presents the greatest threat to Red Devils notching up their 13th consecutive win against Wigan; the Columbian has always been impressive on the big occasions and has troubled Vidic of all people in the past.

Probable Starting Line-up: E. van der Sar, Rafael, C. Smalling, N. Vidic, P. Evra, D. Fletcher, P. Scholes, R. Giggs, L. Nani, J. Hernandez, W. Rooney

Wigan Athletic

Martinez’s team are in a rich vein of form lately, unbeaten in their last three league games. The performances have also improved remarkably. However, the Latics remain favorites for the drop and with less than a third of the season left they need to pick up as many points as they can on their home turf. Their home form so far has been ordinary with only three wins at the DW and with a daunting trip to United’s bitter neighbours City to follow this encounter, Martinez would ask his team to put in a memorable performance.

On the positive side, Wigan have almost a full squad to chose from. The squad health is up to its maximum and only Tom Cleaverly remains unavailable due to his ineligibility to play against his parent club.

The goal scorer in the Liverpool game, Steve Gohouri and Gary Caldwell may are likely to start. Emerson Boyce and Ronnie Stam could however be relegated to the bench. The trio of Victor Moses, Charles N’Zogbia and Hugo Rodallega are well equipped to cause trouble to the United back four.  Roberto Martinez has always encouraged his side to play football the ‘right way’ and so Wigan would like to take the game to Man United who right throughout the season have appeared to be vulnerable away from fortress Old Trafford.

Probable Starting Line-up: Al Habsi, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Gohouri, Diame, McCarthy, Watson, N’Zogbia, Moses, Rodallega

Key Facts

1) Manchester United have won all 12 matches they have played against Wigan in all competitions scoring 37 goals and conceding just four.

2) Wayne Rooney has scored nine goals in 12 games in all competitions against Wigan.

3) 12 members of Manchester United’s current squad have scored Premier League goals against Wigan before.

4) Charles N’Zogbia has been tackled more than any other player in the top-flight this season – 224 times.

5) Wigan have conceded 10 goals by opposition substitutes in the Premier League this term; more than any other outfit.


Eager to impress

Javier Hernandez( Manchester United): The ‘little pea’ has been a revelation since his surprise move to Old Trafford, and in a short span of time has won the fans over. If Sir Alex decides to give the young Mexican a rare start, he would look to justify his manager’s trust.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Wigan Athletic 1-1 Manchester United

United have been anything but inspiring away from home all season, and with a trip to Chelsea on the back of their minds, Sir Alex’s team could be undone if they take their eyes off the ball against a dangerous Wigan side.