Manchester United v Wigan, Premier League, December 30, 2009
How can 15th placed Wigan, with just one win in their last eight matches, hope to claim at least a point at Old Trafford on Wednesday night?
Sadly for the Latics, the history books offer no silver lining ahead of their trip to the reigning champions. Manchester United’s dominance of this fixture has been absolute, with the Red Devils having won 10 out of 10 fixtures against Wigan down the years, scoring a whopping thirty goals in the process and conceding just four in return. (7/5 to be under 2.5 goals in the game.)
Similarly, the window for capitalising on Manchester United’s recent injury crisis which saw both Aston Villa and Fulham claim victories over Fergie’s charges, appears to be closing fast. Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic both recovered from knocks for the 3-1 victory (11/1) at Hull after an injury-ravaged month saw United suffer without eight first-team defenders at one stage.
Additional good news for the Mancunians could see captain Gary Neville reclaim the right-back position from Rafael da Silva (the young Brazilian looked uncertain against the Tigers) after the United number two received the all-clear after a three-week groin injury lay-off.( Manchester United are 4/5 to keep a clean sheet.)
Elsewhere, Tomasz Kuszczak should continue in goal after news filtered out that Edwin van der Sar has been placed on compassionate leave due to a serious illness to his wife. Paul Scholes could rejoin the likes of Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and former-Latic Antonio Valencia in the hosts’ midfield after the 36-year-old recovered from the hip problem which saw him miss Sunday’s trip to Hull. Ryan Giggs may miss out after under-performing against Hull.
Up top, with Dimitar Berbatov still dragging his heels and Michael Owen’s patchy season continuing, all eyes will once again fall on Wayne Rooney. The England centre-forward, minus his head-rush that gifted Hull an equaliser last time out, has been in scintillating form of late – arguably carrying the team on his shoulders. Wigan will no doubt have a greater fear than most of Rooney’s prowess, the striker having scored five goals in his last five games against the blue and whites.( Manchester United are 6/5 to win both halves.)
The hosts though will still be without a full selection of their stars, with Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, John O’Shea, Nani, Owen Hargreaves and Federico Macheda all unavailable for the match.
Modest Wigan will no doubt look to cause the hosts trouble in a fixture many will consider a dead-rubber. Manager Roberto Martinez has no fresh injury concerns, with French midfielder Mohamed Diame the only player absentee as he recovers from a knee ligament injury.
Limited by the resources at his disposal, Martinez has fielded Paul Scharner, Mario Melchiot, Titus Bramble, Charles N’Zogbia, Hugo Rodallega and Jason Scotland in all 18 league matches this season, while Chris Kirkland, Hendry Thomas, Maynor Figueroa and Jordi Gomez have collectively missed just seven matches this year. The Spaniard kept the same XI on the field for the entire 90 minutes in the Boxing Day draw at home to Blackburn, and the Latics could sent out the same eleven at Old Trafford too. (4/7 for both teams NOT to score.)
Should Martinez decide to make any changes, then he may opt to stiffen the visitors midfield by benching striker Jason Scotland, who is yet to score this term.
101predicts: Manchester United 2 – Wigan 0 (11/2)
Full match odds here.