As the international break ends and we welcome back Premier League football, it’s Wigan Athletic that make the trip to Old Trafford on Saturday. United will be looking to hit back after an unconvincing victory at Southampton and will have revenge on their minds after the defeat at the DW Stadium last season which contributed to the loss of the league title. We preview the game and look for your thoughts on what is usually a home banker for the reds.
Wigan come into the game with an impressive record of only 1 defeat in their last 8 away games, a run that stretches back to last season’s heroics in beating relegation once again. After an opening day defeat to Chelsea, Wigan looked impressive in a win at Southampton and could have taken all 3 points at home to Stoke City.
Their record at Old Trafford suggests however that it could be a difficult afternoon for them on Saturday, they’ve lost every time they’ve visited and only ever scored once. United’s overall home form has also been impressive with 9 wins in their last 10 Premier League games.
With this in mind it’s likely that Wigan will continue with the shape seen in recent games of 5 at the back with a 4 man midfield and 1 striker. The return from suspension of Antolin Alcaraz suggests we may see the same starting line up from the away victory at Southampton. Roberto Martinez will look to win the ball and counter quickly using Arouna Kone and Shaun Maloney supporting Franco Di Santo. The creative play in the middle of the two Mcs, McArthur and McCarthy, will look exploit any gaps in the United back line or space between defence and midfield.
United will have to keep a close eye on both Maloney and McArthur who both favour attacking down the left hand side of their forward three.
Injuries and the international break are likely to influence Sir Alex’s line up, as is the visit of Galatasaray on Wednesday evening as the Champions League returns.
The missing-in-action pair of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones may be joined on the sidelines by Jonny Evans who whilst playing for Northern Ireland midweek with strapping on his ankle and painkillers, is a doubt. This means we’re likely to continue to see Ferdinand and Vidic in defence. Rafael should retain his place at right back with a potential debut for new signing for Alex Buttner at left back in place of the ever present Patrice Evra being hinted at in the press.
We are likely to see changes in the midfield area, however the overall shape of the team should be similar to how we have started games this year. This will consist of two deeper midfielders with a creative man behind a striker and two wide players. There’s been no official word from United about how serious the injury of Robin Van Persie’s sustained midweek for Holland is, and it seems certain that Shinji Kagawa will miss out due to a back issue that kept him out of Japan’s second game completely. This could open the door for Tom Cleverley to move further forward and play in the number 10 role much like he did for England. Behind Cleverley it will likely be Carrick and one other, my money is on Anderson to be picked and continue the impressive form he showed against Fulham before dropping out of the squad altogether for the trip to Southampton.
Moving up to the front and it’s likely to be a straight battle between Hernandez and Welbeck for the striker’s role. After his game-changing cameo against Southampton I would like to see Hernandez start this game and really test the pace of the Wigan back line. Complementing his pace and movement in the centre I think we will see two genuine wide players alongside Javier. Following a long week of travel for Antonio Valencia it would be no surprise to see him start this game against his former club from the bench. This would see potentially Nani on the right hand side and with Ashley Young having missed England duty he could come in on the left – presuming he’s fit.
The only position remaining is the battle for the goalkeeper’s jersey between De Gea and current owner, Anders Lindegaard. By his own admission, Lindegaard was rusty against Southampton but with the revelation from Sir Alex that De Gea was dropped, it could be argued that De Gea should instantly recover the keeper’s slot based on Anders’ performance. I personally do not see this happening just yet and think we are likely to see Lindegaard continue a bit longer unless he drops a clanger, but with some big games over the horizon in Galatasaray and Liverpool at Anfield it is a position that needs some stability from now on.
I expect more slick passing and a bit more cutting edge from players not called Robin in front of goal. A more solid back line performance with support for the full backs who have been caught out in recent weeks wouldn’t go amiss either. It’s clear that most positions are still up for grabs in this side and Wigan at home is the perfect game for players to state a case for a longer run in the team. I expect United to win comfortably in the end but it may be a rocky 90 minutes, in keeping with the recent fun!
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