After a rather tedious international break with England under-performing against Ukraine, most football fans couldn’t wait to get back to Premier League football. What better way for the Old Trafford faithful to witness a near demolition of a Wigan team who caused Manchester United a few troubles in the latter stages of last season?
Other than the comfortable scoreline, it was a day of fantastic achievements. Paul Scholes scoring on his 700th appearance for the Red Devils, Alexander Büttner & Nick Powell both scoring their first goals on their debuts, Ryan Giggs’ 600th Premier League appearance, Rio Ferdinand reaching 400 games for the club and Fergie’s 500th home league game in charge
Below, the Can They Score team give their thoughts on the match against Wigan focussing on the various areas of the team assessing the positives and negatives to arise from the match. Please feel free to add your comments on the players and the performance in the comments section below.
Once again, Sir Alex Ferguson’s choice to play Lindegaard over De Gea suggests that the Spaniard was severely blamed for the mistake against Fulham but the decision to rest a few key players for this game could mean that Lindegaard was included in the starting XI as “squad rotation”. It remains to be seen what will happen on Wednesday as Manchester United face Galatasaray in the Champions League but it wouldn’t come as a surprise if De Gea were to be reinstated for a CL game (a competition he has some experience in) instead of the Dane.
Over the course of the 90 minutes, Lindegaard was virtually invisible as Manchester United kept Wigan at bay for the majority of the game but when called upon, Lindegaard appeared to have his angles covered and seemed to improve on his passing, keeping everything relatively simple at the back.
Conceding 5 goals in 3 games is something Manchester United fans are not used to seeing and the game at home against Wigan, a team against whom Manchester United have a near perfect track record, was the perfect opportunity for the defence to find a solution to this niggling problem that had started to creep into Manchester United’s performances.
Goal achieved: 1st clean sheet of the season under the belt.
With Patrice Evra picking up an injury in training, everyone was excited to see what Alexander Büttner had to offer. I’ve got to say, he’s rather likeable. Crazy hair, tattoos, brimming with confidence; Mr Büttner has all the attributes to becoming a crowd favourite.
The starting line up hinted that Giggs would start in front on Büttner as a left winger but as the minutes went by, it was clear to everyone that Ryan started to drift inwards, allowing Büttner to bomb forward freely, taking on Emmerson Boyce and Ivan Ramis by himself. His confidence and willpower showed throughout the game and a goal on his debut (& Old Trafford debut) was completely deserved. However, there are a few aspects of his game that seemed to cause Manchester United a bit of trouble. His positioning left much to be desired and the odd player ghosting in behind him caught him out more than once during the 90 minutes.
Büttner calmly celebrating his goal
After the game, a few on Twitter were calling for Büttner to replace Patrice Evra altogether and let him start against Galatasaray. Now that a few days have passed and the excitement is over, it is worthwhile pointing out that his grand performance was against Wigan at Old Trafford. He definitely has potential but to replace Patrice Evra, Manchester United’s left back for over 5 years, after 1 performance would be absurd.
Moving onto the rest of the defence, Ferdinand and Vidic were able to rebuild their long lost chemistry in a relatively incident free game but the shakiness and rustiness was still perceivable when the odd cross floated into the Manchester United box.
With his right-back spot seemingly secured at the moment, Rafael enjoyed a particularly quiet game against Wigan but returned to his old ways on a few occasions and found himself too far up the pitch at certain times. As everyone knows, Rafael is more of an attacking full back and enjoys getting forward but yet possesses the skills to get past players, something which was particularly visible throughout the game where he tried a bit too hard at times instead of playing a simple pass.
Overall, the defence enjoyed a relatively quiet game and found themselves attacking more than defending but work still needs to be done on the training pitch to regain a certain chemistry in order to keep clean sheets against more threatening sides.
As United started off in a very flat 4-4-2 the midfield pairing of Scholes and Carrick became very apparent as Sir Alex aimed to control the play with the two men falling deep in defence. One out of Welbeck and Chicharito would track back as Nani and Giggs pushed inside in order to “trap” Wigan from using the width of the pitch. The midfield tandem worked in the way that Scholes was given the “playmaking role” of controlling the game with both short and long passes with Carrick sweeping up around him should he loose the ball. Everything was kept tidy and simple with both Nani and Giggs cutting inwards in order for both Chicharito and Welbeck to attack the space between the defenders. This however, did not work as Nani didn’t manage to fulfill that role and Giggs didn’t connect with his through balls. It didn’t help that Welbeck and Chicharito were constantly moving in the same spaces either.
Scholes moved a bit higher for the second half as Giggs usually stayed a bit deeper as Büttner pushed forward. Nani had help from Rafael which created a diversion, which again sat Nani up for 1-on-1s with the defenders. Scholes now functioned as a “point guard” outside the area and sat up plays as United looked to invade Wigan’s box. Scholes’ goal opened to floodgates to what became a promising victory. United looked much stronger when daring to let the fullbacks overlap. Having Giggs, Scholes and Carrick in midfield allowed this. This because of their brilliant positioning on both ends of the pitch which didn’t really give Wigan any chance of posing a real threat on the counter. Experience and routine outplayed a physically dominant Wigan-side who looked to scare United in the first half. Luckily, United prevailed this time.
Had a very slow start to the game and tried to make himself available in the room between Wigan’s defence and midfield. During the second half, as Rafael finally started overlapping him more, Nani got the free range he needed to offer his trickery and excitement to the game. I’ve never really been too big a Nani-fan, but I can see why people rave about him after having witnessed him at Old Trafford in this game. He’s buckets of fun and offers width, pace, trickery and high tempo on the counter. Perhaps not his best game, but I thought he did well. Seems to be an upswing in both his attitude and performances now.
Funny observation; Nani performs the same body fake each and every time. He doesn’t change it up at all. I was really puzzled at how the defender continuously kept on falling for it. I suppose there was something in Andy Cole’s quote about Andrei Kanchelskis: “There’s one thing knowing what he’ll do, it’s a whole different thing to stop it”.
Poetry in motion. I believe everyone who left that stadium on Saturday felt a bit blessed that they got to see that performance from Scholes. A couple of crunching tackles, some delicate passes, brilliant vision and a goal to boot. The way he controls the game simply by moving across the lines is just out of this world. I had a period during the game where I tried to just watch Scholes to see what he was doing. He was constantly looking over his shoulder, always thinking about what he’d do should he receive the ball and knew exactly what he’d do once he got it. Amazing to watch how he turned away defenders and midfielders with his first touch. Was a real privilege.
Funny observation; I believe we can give some of the credit to Scholes’ blossoming development in fitness to Alexander Büttner. They were warming up together with some short passing. Needless to say, every pass from Scholes was on point. The Dutchman, however, made the old man run more than he ever has during the warmup as the ball fell astray on at least ten occasions.
If only Scholes could play for another 700 appearances…
Seemed to be struggling in the beginning of the match. Didn’t really find his position, much due to Scholes advancing higher up the pitch that usual (meaning that Carrick has to push higher) and was caught out a few times. When Scholes sat back more, Carrick dominated the Wigan midfield and did things nice and simple. Had a few great interceptions and really seemed to be the glue between defence and midfield. Really does the infamous “invisible job” that people rarely gives him any credit for.
Funny observation; Carrick is always vocal, it seemed. Whenever he didn’t have the ball, he was conversing with the fullbacks, the central defenders and with his midfield partner. Perhaps he’s not really a leader on the pitch, but he seems to be getting his points across at all times.
It was one of “those games” for Ryan Giggs, I thought. He wants so much, but it just doesn’t fall the way he wants it to. Has nothing to do with age, but just that he’s either too ambitious or things just doesn’t fall the way he plans. Was very lively and wanted to get involved at all times as he moved in from his leftwing. Perhaps the lack of overlapping from Büttner in the first half made him seem a bit more clueless than he actually was. Had an OK game, but it was easy to see that he featured due to his routine and experience rather than his physical attributes. Which is, in many ways, as good.
Funny observation; Ryan Giggs was clearly given the instruction to guide Alexander Büttner in the offensive parts of the game. Nemanja Vidic was constantly on the debutant in defence, but Giggs always tried to explain how he had to make his runs and that he just had to be calm. It was really interesting to see how Giggs took him under his wing as the game progressed and really wanted to help him in the offensive aspect of the game. Vital stuff for young players which proved pivotal.
Now here’s an interesting player. Buckets of fun when he came on. Even though he seemed a bit nervous and that he perhaps hasn’t mastered the pace of the Premier League yet, he always wants to be involved in the game. His movement is impressive for a guy born in 1994 and he really seems to have a broad understanding of the game. Does things simple and easy, but doesn’t mind involving himself on either part of the pitch. The goal was wonderful too. Really thumped it into the back of the net and rounded off what turned out to be a great afternoon for us who went to the game.
After picking up a minor thigh injury while on international duty with Holland, Robin van Persie started the match on the bench and with Rooney still a few weeks from full fitness, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez were selected up front.
Welbeck revelled in the “no 10” role behind the little Mexican. He has had to endure a left sided role at times this season which is one he is neither suited to or makes best use of his talent. He dropped deep to help link up play numerous times (especially in the first half) and was able to engineer numerous attempts on goal. The only thing lacking from his game at the moment appears to be a goal and it is one area that needs attention. His part in the penalty awarded early on should act as a lesson to the youngster. There was minimal contact from the on-rushing Al Habsi and almost as an afterthought he appeared to take the tumble to see if referee Oliver would take the bait. It was a poor decision in my opinion by both parties and Danny must heed the warnings that getting a reputation for simulation or over exaggeration of contact will see him gain a reputation that will be difficult to lose. While castigation of his actions should be minimal, a quiet word from the manager would not go amiss.
Welbeck taking a tumble
Hernandez had a difficult afternoon in my opinion. His already low level of confidence in front of goal cannot have been helped by his weak penalty attempt but to his credit he did not stop working for the team and duly got his reward with a tap in for United’s second goal after Buttner’s cross-cum-shot landed in his path a few yards from goal. His tendency to fall over was noticeable throughout especially when feeling the presence of a defender behind him but whether these were attempts to win fouls or simply wearing the wrong footwear was unclear at times. His frustrating habit of drifting offside appears to be an area he has worked on as his pace means that there is little need to go too early. At the moment, Hernandez appears to work best as an impact substitute late in the game when the opposition are tiring but with a busy schedule upcoming he is sure to get plenty of opportunity from the start too.
Van Persie made a substitute appearance in the second half and had a decent impact although he may wonder how he failed to score with his first touch when in front of goal. His mere presence lifted not only the crowd but also his team mates as United looked to capitalise late on against a weary Wigan side. With a trip to Anfield on the horizon, it is clear that United need him fit and firing especially as goals have been hard to come by in recent visits.
I am a 21 year old half-French, half-English Manchester United fan living in France but studying Russian and Spanish at University in England. Thrown into the world of football at the tender age of 7, it has fascinated me ever since. I have no affiliation with Manchester yet have proudly supported United for 13 years.