An emphatic victory and a second clean sheet on the bounce. If this is Manchester United going through the gears, it won't matter how the pack responds.
Robin van Persie began this year as he ended the last, taking his total for the season to 19 with two clinical strikes. Manchester City's Roberto Mancini believes Van Persie is the difference between United and the rest. Van Persie has certainly enhanced the neighbourhood.
As is his habit, one goal was delivered late but on this occasion Van Persie was not deciding matters. That was taken care of earlier by the remarkable Javier Hernandez.
Both his goals were instinctive responses, the first in the 35th minute after Patrice Evra's shot was blocked by Ali al-Habsi and his second when Van Persie's free-kick was charged down. With 67 minutes on the clock the game was over. Wigan were game but ultimately outclassed. They threw men forward in the hope of marking the occasion with something but ended up gifting United a fourth.
United briefly ignited through Tom Cleverley and Ryan Giggs, who crossed dangerously to the far post, where Wigan scrambled the ball clear for a corner.
The move signalled a shift in gear and provoked the opening goal. A neat exchange down the left freed Jonny Evans, who broke into the box to feed the advancing Evra. Al-Habsi did well to block Evra's shot but when the ball fell to Hernandez, there could be only one outcome and the chance was duly snaffled.
Three minutes before the break United doubled their advantage. James McArthur and Maynor Figueroa somehow managed to tackle each other, allowing Hernandez to sprint clear down the right. His cross left Van Persie, right, with plenty to do but he did it nonetheless, switching the ball brilliantly from left foot to right before curling it into the net.
In the second half, it was all Gary Caldwell could do to stick out a foot to stop Rafael rampaging through on goal. Van Persie's resulting free-kick was charged down by the wall into the path of Hernandez. Few react as quickly as this kid. Al-Habsi dived, but did not stand a chance.
Spiritedly, Wigan removed Caldwell and threw men forward. Chris Smalling was booked for bringing down Koné..
With three minutes to go, a mistake by Boyce allowed Danny Welbeck to square for Van Persie, who gratefully clipped his second and United's fourth. Ferguson was naturally chuffed to usher in 2013 with a bang and was full of praise for his strikers.
"We knew we were getting a top player who would make a difference to the team," said Ferguson about Van Persie. "That is why we went for him. Robin is a completely rounded footballer. He has great international experience, he's played for Arsenal for seven years and he came to us at the very peak of his career.
"[And] Javier [Hernandez] is tremendous."
- More about:
- Javier Hernandez
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Patrice Evra
- Premier League
- Roberto Mancini
- Robin Van Persie
- Sir Alex Ferguson
- Tom Cleverley
- Wigan Athletic