Manchester United beat Wigan 1 – 0 last night to move up to the second spot on the Premier League table, but the win did not come without bad news since the goal scorer Wayne Rooney limped off with a hamstring injury in just the seventh minute that will keep him sidelined for 3 weeks.
Although Wigan had arrived at Old Trafford in fine form, having won six of their last seven league games, their record against United was a sorry six defeats from six meetings in the Premier League, so the form book was certainly on the champions’ side as they attempted to edge to within two points of leaders Liverpool.
Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Chelsea at Old Trafford emphasised the growing confidence within United ranks, however, and the determination to put pressure on Liverpool was evident as Ferguson’s team raced out of the traps at the start of the game. But even so, United’s lightning start took the breath away as they opened the scoring inside the first minute when Rooney pounced on Ronaldo‘s cross from the right flank.
The United winger easily beat his marker on the edge of the penalty area and his cross into the six-yard box was missed by defender Paul Scharner, allowing Rooney to stroke the ball home from close range. It proved to be Rooney’s last involvement in the game, though, with the England forward succumbing to injury just six minutes later.
Ferguson replaced Rooney with Carlos Tevez and the Argentinian forward – whose future at the club is far from secure – should have doubled United’s lead after being teed up by John O’Shea midway through the first-half. O’Shea’s header from Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland’s clearance freed Tevez thirty yards from goal, but the former West Ham striker over-ran the ball after rounding the keeper and he could only aim his shot into the side-netting.
Wigan did not sit back, however, and they caused United a host of problems through Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia. Valencia, reportedly a January target for Real Madrid and Liverpool, delivered a series of dangerous crosses, but strikers Emile Heskey and Amr Zaki failed to take advantage.
United failed to heed the warning, though, and Wigan were the dominant team early in the second-half as United allowed themselves to drop too deep. Ryan Taylor and Zaki both had goalbound efforts blocked and Maynor Figueroa forced Edwin van der Sar into a difficult save with a swerving volley from 30-yards on sixty-seven minutes.
When Heskey directed a Valencia cross just wide of the near post seconds later, Ferguson raced to the touchline to berate his under-performing players. The manager’s rallying call went unheeded, however, and United continued to toil away. Fortunately for their title hopes, though, they were able to hold out to claim their fifth 1-0 win in seven league games.
“It is a hamstring injury,” Ferguson said after the match of Rooney’s early substitution. “That will be about three weeks. We hope it is no longer.”
Rooney’s replacement, Carlos Tevez, and young defender Jonny Evans – who has been receiving rave reviews while he has been deputising for the injured Rio Ferdinand – both suffered heavy knocks and are doubtful for Saturday’s trip to Bolton, where victory will see United go to the top of the table for the first time this season.
“Carlos limped through the second half and Jonny limped through virtually the whole game,” Ferguson said. “We will have to assess them and see how they are. We need our best team on Saturday because Bolton are a big side.”
Ferguson paid tribute to the way Wigan – managed by former United centreback Steve Bruce – battled after their early setback. “Wigan are the best side that has played here this season by far,” he said. “It was an outstanding performance from them. They really made us work. They are a very positive team.”
Source + Pic: supersport.co.za