Well, we’re only three games in and now that the irritating, far-too-early and momentum zapping International break is out of the way, it’s back to business at Old Trafford this weekend, as United host Wigan Athletic on Saturday at 3.00pm.
It feels good writing, saying and thinking 3.00pm on Saturday when talking about a forthcoming United game. It should happen more often.
Wigan are a team who’ve battled against the drop over the last few seasons and have managed to stay afloat by the merits of working hard and playing well when they’ve needed to. And of course, we fell victim to those efforts at the DW Stadium last season, when we turned up there with an incredible gap at the top of the table and gave a performance that was embarrassing to us fans, and in some way insulting to Wigan Athletic. A well deserved 1-0 defeat was part of a strange couple of weeks that saw our bid for a 20th league title slip away.
We should bear this in mind for the weekend, just “turning up” is not an option.
United have casualties for this one. Wayne Rooney is definitely ruled out – I’ll spare the jokes about a nasty gash, they’ve done the rounds already. And during the international break Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa picked up knocks that could see them racing to be fit for the weekend. It’s likely Danny Welbeck will partner Chicharito up front for United as a result of these injuries.
At the back, Smalling misses out again, and Phil Jones has now been ruled out for a further two months. New signing Alexander Buttner picked up a knock in a friendly in midweek, so he may be unavailable as cover for Patrice Evra.
In goal, Sir Alex had already mentioned that De Gea may miss “a couple of games” in his pre-match interview with Geoff Shreeves against Southampton, so I’m plumping with Anders Lindergaard to take his finger out of his nose again, and start against the Latics.
Our opponents have a pretty much fully fit squad to choose from. Boss Roberto Martinez only has two players doubtful for Saturday, those being Jean Beausejour and Antolin Alcaraz.
They come to us on four points with one loss, a win and a draw in their opening three games. Striker Franco Di Santo is their danger man with two goals already this season, and goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi is also continuing to show the form that propelled him to the forefront of people’s minds last season.
- United have won 36 and lost just two of their last 41 Premier League games at Old Trafford
- Wigan have lost just two of their last nine Premier League games
- Wigan have failed to score in eight of the last 10 league games against Man Utd
- The reds have conceded more headed goals than any other team in the Premier League so far this season.
Former United skipper Steve Bruce has had two spells as Wigan boss. A brief two month stint in 2001 was followed by a two year tenure between 2007 and 2009.
Antonio Valencia signed for Wigan from Valencia in 2006 on a year-long loan that was subsequently extended for a further year before signing the Ecuadorian permanently. Such was his impact on the Premier League, United snapped him up in 2009, winning the clubs Fans and Players’ Player of the Year award in 2012. “Tony V” is still fondly remembered by Wigan supporters.
Tom Cleverly spent a season on loan at the Latics in 2010-2011, which saw him gain valuable Premier League experience. He scored four Premiership goals in 25 league appearances, and was rewarded with a starting spot in the United team the following season. However, injuries left their mark on Cleverley, and his opportunities in the first team were restricted.
On paper, this should be a three pointer for the reds, and we’ll hopefully have nine points by 5pm on Saturday. As I mentioned earlier though…under-estimate Wigan Athletic at your peril. We come in to the game on the back of two Premier League victories, but we made very hard work of them and we’ve not been firing on all cylinders so far this term.
The level of our performance will rest heavily on who will be available for selection, but regardless of that – Roberto Martinez certainly won’t let us walk all over his side.
Wherever you’re watching it, enjoy the game.
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