Manchester United take on Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford in the Barclays Premier League – a club that they have enjoy success against in the past few seasons.
United outscored their Greater Manchester rival 10-0 in their two matches last season, and when that is coupled with their get-out-of-jail performance against Aston Villa last Saturday, the Reds should be in a vibrant mood to get all three points against Wigan.
This will not be a walk in the park for United, though, because, in spite of their poor position in the league, Wigan has been in good form by gaining four points from their last two games, which two more than the Red Devils have gotten.
The Latics come into the match just above the relegation places in 17th place after securing a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at the DW Stadium last Wednesday, and then beating West Bromwich Albion 1-0 at the same venue.
Since their promotion into the top flight of English football at the beginning of the 2005/06 season, Wigan has played United 11 times and has yet to taste victory – or secure a point against the Reds for that matter.
United has accumulated an impressive 35 goals in those 11 matches (3.18 / per match), which includes a 4-0 win in the 2006 Carling Cup final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff as well.
On the other hand, the Latics have only totaled four in as many games – and only one of them came at Old Trafford albeit a Leighton Baines penalty in the 90th minute during the 2006/07 season.
Roberto Martinez, who plays a very positive style of football, is in the midst of his second full season in charge at Wigan, but he could only guide them to just one place better then they are presently in the final league standings last year (16th).
Their Chairman, Dave Whelan, is a long-time admirer of Sir Alex Ferguson and what he has accomplished at United, so he will be looking for Martinez to improve on their low league place.
To be fair to Martinez, he is not getting very much help from his front line, because Wigan are rock bottom of the league with only 10 goals scored – which is a mere16 off of United’s pace in as many matches.
Wigan has not scored more than one goal in just over a month, which was against Newcastle United in a 2-2 draw, but, on the contrary, the visitors have only been shutout once during that same time frame (a 2-0 loss to Fulham).
Wigan’s defense is not much better, though, because the Latics are fifth in Premier League by conceding 21 goals – but 10 of those goals came in their first two matches (4-0 loss to Blackpool and a 6-0 thumping to Chelsea).
If those two matches are not figured in, then Wigan boasts a pretty decent 1.00 goals against average in their other 11 Premier League games – which is better than United’s 1.18 GAA.
Hugo Rodallega, who is the last Wigan player to score against United, leads the team with four goals in 12 matches, and the 5’11” Colombian has offered a stern challenge and engaged into some heated battles with United’s captain, Nemanja Vidic, so it will be interesting to see if that feud continues.
Want-away winger, Charles N’Zogbia, is the Latics live wire, and he has already contributed three goals and an assist 11 games, and he is rightly seen as the club’s bad boy, for his outspoken stance that he did not want to be at the DW Stadium this year, the 24-year old will be keen to showcase his skills to potential suitors.
Gary Caldwell arrived last January from Celtic and the Scottish international not only anchors the Wigan defense, but he also serves as the club’s captain.
One player that will not be available for Martinez is, Tom Cleverley, who arrived for a season-long loan on transfer deadline day from United back in August.
Although Martinez spent a month in South Africa being a commentator for ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Spaniard was quite busy in the transfer market.
On top of Cleverley joining, Franco Di Santo (Chelsea), Steven Caldwell (Unattached), who is the brother of Gary, Ronnie Stam (Twente Enschede), Antolín Alcaraz (unattached), Ali Al Habsi (Bolton Wanderers) and Mauro Boselli (Estudiantes La Plata) all arrived at the DW Stadium to bolster Martinez’s options.
Jason Scotland (Ipswich Town) and Titus Bramble (Sunderland) were the only two players that parted ways with the club, but keeping N’Zogbia was definitely like a new signing for Martinez, because he was all but resigned to losing the Frenchman.
Following his mini vacation to Qatar, Sir Alex said that he, and only him, will make the decision to include Wayne Rooney on the bench or not, but the likelihood of him starting is not very good.
Ryan Giggs is still suffering from a hamstring strain, which has kept him on the sidelines since coming off against West Brom in October.
Manchester United should extend their personal 11-match win streak against Wigan Athletic, but Roberto Martinez will definitely make sure his players are ready and ultimately express themselves at Old Trafford.
Out: A. Valencia (leg), O. Hargreaves (hamstring), M. Owen (hamstring); Doubtful: R. Giggs (hamstring), Anderson (knee), Rafael (leg): Probable: W. Rooney (ankle)
E. van der Sar; Rafael, R. Ferdinand, N. Vidic, P. Evra; P. Scholes, M. Carrick, D. Fletcher, J. S. Park, Nani; J. Hernandez
Manchester United 3 Wigan Athletic 1