Manchester United stroll to victory against Wigan

Jan 30, 2017
Juan Mata, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Anthony Martial celebrate Manchester United’s fourth goal. Photo by Getty Images
Juan Mata, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Anthony Martial celebrate Manchester United’s fourth goal. Photo by Getty Images

Before the game José Mourinho stated that if Anthony Martial performed “magnificently” against Wigan Athletic he would start when Manchester United host Hull City on Wednesday night.

The comments came after Martial was left out of previous squads and United’s defence of the FA Cup is alive in the main because of an effervescent display from Martial, who may now expect to be in the XI to face Hull, as promised. The Frenchman was fielded at centre-forward for the first time in just under 12 months and his pace and creativity engineered United’s second and third strikes.

The ease of this win was summed up by the Portuguese goalkeeper Joel Pereira coming on for his debut in place of Sergio Romero with 10 minutes remaining and in Bastian Schweinsteiger’s registering United’s fourth.

Mourinho’s team selection was notable for a sluggish-looking midfield axis. Marouane Fellaini was paired with Schweinsteiger, who made his first start since January last year, also in this competition, in the win against Sheffield United.

Fellaini’s first contribution was to be pickpocketed by Sam Morsy, pull back his opponent and be fortunate the referee, Neil Swarbrick, did not book him. Schweinsteiger then showed rustiness when belting a supposed defence-splitting ball to precisely no one.

From his customary prowl in the technical area, Mourinho next saw Romero beat away a fierce shot from Callum Connolly after a Dan Burn knockdown.

Behind Martial, whose last outing at No9 was in the win at Shrewsbury Town in February 2016, was Wayne Rooney. Before kick-off he collected an award from Sir Bobby Charlton for becoming United’s record scorer and during the contest he operated behind Martial, with Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan either side of him.

In the morning it was reported the club will allow Rooney to leave for China before the nation’s transfer window closes next month. Asked about this, Mourinho said: “The only player that I am aware of a possibility to leave and I am waiting just for 31 January to know what really is going on is Ashley Young, a player that I would love to keep, I’m not happy at all if he leaves but he is the only player that I was informed there would be a possibility of him leaving, that’s why I didn’t play him, that’s why I gave chances to other people because I don’t know if he’s going to stay with us. If I could choose, yes definitely, he will stay with us.”

United were in an uneven patch of form, having lost at Hull on Thursday, and drawing the two matches before that. Much of this was because of a snail-like pace of play and the inability to take chances: faults on show throughout the opening period. The ball was rolled around lackadaisically and when a clear sight of goal finally came, after 25 minutes, Mata blasted over.

Each time Wigan attacked they rattled United. Michael Jacobs went clear and Timothy Fosu-Mensah felled him. Max Power’s free-kick was defended but here was a warning.

The importance of pace was illustrated when Martial actually injected some. From a deep position he sprinted at Wigan and after offloading to Fosu-Mensah the right-back’s cross went to the far post but Mkhitaryan sliced wide Mis-hits were a feature of a dour first half: at the other end Morsy laid on Jacobs but the effort was fluffed.

United, though, took an unlikely lead into the break. This was route-one stuff as Rooney fed Schweinsteiger along the right and his cross was headed in by Fellaini.

It may not have changed Mourinho’s team talk too much. The message surely remained the same: raise the tempo considerably. If so, at the start of the second half he will have been pleased to see Fosu-Mensah sprint before firing a shot at the goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard.

What Mourinho did not want to see was a mistake from Romero that might have been costly. The Argentinian’s weak push out of his area gave the ball straight to David Perkins but the goalkeeper was alert enough to save when it came back at him.

This had the Wigan manager, Warren Joyce, wheeling away in disappointment, an emotion that was about to deepen as United took the tie to 2-0. Again it was a header. Martial was the provider, pinging the ball from the left towards Chris Smalling, whose finish allowed Haugaard little hope.

United’s third came via more of the speedy stuff. Rooney touched in-field to Mkhitaryan, whose ball went to Martial. From here the forward rocketed along the left and relocated the Armenian, who did not miss from close range.

Then came Schweinsteiger’s finish, which was greeted warmly by the home support. They did the same for their side when they walked off at the final whistle. This ended as a job professionally done. -The Guardian 

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