So we take on Wigan today in a post-noon kick off. It’s one team we’ve had good results against in recent times. So one would hope that, against a team with such a wretched away record as them, (and us, with such an outstanding home record this season) there could be only one possible result in this game.
But let’s keep our feet on the ground for the moment, shall we?
Wigan are far removed from the team that punched well above its weight in its first season in the Premier League. Back then it had some great attacking players with Paul Jewell managing the team quite well. Last season, having lost some of their star performers, they just about managed to avoid relegation on the last day of the season.
This time round, they have lost some more of their big players, most notably Leighton Baines, and have a new manager at the helm.
We are doing rather well defensively, and have a 100% home record, so far. I wouldn’t expect that to be broken today, but funnier things have happened. We struggled to overcome an organised Reading side that has, of late, shipped plenty of goals — last week against Pompey they allowed seven! So we would do well to understand that teams kick up a notch – in motivation levels and intensity – when they face us.
That said, realistically speaking, it should be a game where we can rediscover the flair and swagger of last season. (Although, ideally, Derby County would be the game for that.) Granted, our midfield could now seem a little stretched with the absence of Hargreaves and Carrick, but O’Shea should be handy enough to do the job against the Latics.
I’d expect the same 4-4-2 side that was put out against Roma. I believe Brown would be back, although there are doubts. Otherwise Pique could deputise. That said, I’ve heard a lot of fans wanting Pique to play in the defensive midfield, instead of O’Shea. I don’t remember seeing him play in a defensive midfield position, so, my fellow-men, kindly care to jog my memories.
In attack I would expect Saha and Rooney to start (although I wouldn’t be surprised if Tevez started instead of the Frenchman.) Ronaldo, who promised he would be beautiful again, would start on the right, and I suppose SAF might persist with Nani against Wigan; these are the sort of games you’d expect Nani to feature in. Meanwhile, the time spent away from the starting line-up should help Giggs sort himself out and get back to his best.
I also heard Fergie talk about Anderson being an option. I don’t quite agree with some of the stick he’s been getting from certain quarters, questioning his quality. True, he hasn’t completely justified his price tag. But then it was known, when we bought him, that he wouldn’t play a significant part this season and due to his return from a horrific injury; it would always take him sometime before he finds his feet. We did see some encouraging signs in the Roma game. Hopefully he does come good.
Back to the game, though. Giggs might also be an option in central midfield. I wouldn’t be too worried about this situation. It must be remembered that a midfield duo of Giggs and O’Shea/Fletcher played a significant part in the second half of the 05/06 season, when Scholes was out with blurred vision, and we still finished ahead of supposed stronger midfields of Liverpool and Arsenal.
So there it is. Hopefully we do manage to win and win well. Although I would take a 1-0 win, given we aren’t necessarily having the best of midfields at the moment.
Prediction: 2-0 to United. (Ronaldo, Rooney to score)
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