Match report: Manchester United duo Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez batter Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic 0 Manchester United 4

DW Stadium

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. Manchester City cracked in three, and what does Roberto Mancini see when he comes into the Etihad changing room? A scoreline at Wigan embellished by the man he tried  to sign.

Robin van Persie began this year how he ended the last, taking his total for the season to 19 with two clinical strikes. Mancini believes Van Persie is the difference between United and the rest. The man who bagged him, Sir Alex Ferguson, described him as the complete footballer. He 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, who could slice a loaf of bread with either foot, so sharp are his reflexes.

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.

Roberto Martinez thought it unfortunate to be playing United at the back of the festive fixtures. “It was very unfair to play the league leaders at the end of four games in 11 days,” The Wigan manager said. “They made a few changes and were able to freshen it up. At 2-0 down we tried to get back in it but we did not have the legs.”

“We played against a very talented side, a top team. Van Persie and Hernandez looked sharper and it was a mismatch at the end. You look at their quality and experience, the combination of Hernandez and Van Persie, they have a strong squad and it will be very difficult to reduce the gap at the top.”

During an opening half-hour of polite fencing, neither team was able to establish any kind of rhythm. Passes went astray, flicks cannoned off shins, crosses were either overhit or hopeful. 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 Johnny 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 with plenty to do but he did it nonetheless, switching the ball brilliantly from left foot to right before curling it into the net.

Wigan were fortunate not to fall further behind immediately after the restart when a mistake by Ivan Ramis allowed Giggs to set Hernandez free. The Mexican’s lethal touch surprisingly deserted him and his shot skewed wide of the post. It was the start of a sustained phase of imperious attacking that left Wigan bandy-legged. The ball pinged about the DW at lightning pace, threatening all kinds of doom, yet it was the home side who had the ball in the net next.

A quick counter from Shaun Maloney led to a free-kick on the half-way line. The ball was played into Franco Di Santo, whose cross was converted brilliantly by Arouna Koné, but illegally according to the linesman, who flagged for offside. The chance gone, United resumed the onslaught.

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, as he is compelled to do, but did not stand a chance.

Spiritedly, Wigan removed skipper Caldwell and threw men forward. Chris Smalling was booked for bringing down Koné to halt a typically robust charge. The United substitute was definitely at fault, but there are men in this town who can drag three blokes in a tackle and still stay on their feet, unlike Koné. Perhaps it’s something to do with the shape of the ball.

With three minutes to go, a mistake by Boyce allowed substitute 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.

“His ability to make and take goals is fantastic. His play for his first goal was absolutely magnificent, his turn, his balance, no drawback, just side footed it in. It was a really good goal.”

Hernandez was praised similarly effusively and Ferguson added: “Since Javier came, he has shown he is a penalty-box player. He is tremendous. He latches onto things. He is brilliant.”

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little