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.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor