Manchester United may be the league leaders, but one statistic was in Wigan’s favour heading into today’s daunting encounter – United hadn’t won a single game in the calendar year, while Wigan hadn’t lost in the same time period. Oh alright, that was a stupid joke – I blame it on one too many New Year’s Ribenas watching Pointless Celebrities on iPlayer.
Speaking of drinks, viewing a series of highlights packages last weekend has inspired me to create this, the Ivan Ramis drinking game! You must take a swig of a different beverage for every pronunciation variation invented by commentators over the New Year period. Examples include: Eeevahhhn Raymos, Eyevon Rameez, Ivanhoe Rommis and Evan Rimmis. Watch Match of the Day tonight and see how many you can spot!
Enough festive frivolity – I’m sure all this irrelevance isn’t helping your hangover one bit, Rio Ferdinand (warning, replies may be NSFW!). Today marks the first day of a new transfer window, so although Wigan may have sat in a relatively healthy 16th position at 14:59pm this afternoon, it would be very unwise to become the slightest bit complacent.
As for whether our own new recruits, Roger ‘sign him up Bobby’ Espinoza and Chilean prospect Angelo Henriquez, will feature as early as this week, we shall all have to be patient (ahh, that’s my own New Year’s resolution). Arouna Kone is off to the African Cup of Nations, so let’s hope he accidentally leaves those shooting boots someone gifted him in the DW home dressing room for a potential successor to pick up.
Okay, I’ve been putting this off long enough – the match. I don’t want to put too much of a downer on your seasonal celebrations, so I shall be succinct and try to concentrate on the positives from today’s game, Roberto Martinez-style. Life’s too short to be a grumpy old so-and-so, eh?
Let’s face it – Man United were the better team this afternoon, about 100 million quid better, you might say. For Wigan to get anything against such an in-form side, they would have to be at their best and for a few things to go their way at crucial moments. Well, all seemed to be going to plan for the first half an hour or so, but that’s when United started to turn it on.
Blame defensive lapses all you like –heading back into your own packed penalty area is seldom a good idea, let alone against the league leaders and champions elect– but one felt that first goal was coming. You put enough balls into the area with men to follow them up, one is bound to fall for you eventually. That’s precisely what happened for Hernandez, who slotted away Al Habsi’s parried save with consummate ease.
The second United goal was initiated by a good run of the ball, and with a player of such quality as van Persie, that’s all you need. The delightful Dutchman bamboozled the floored Rameez (players, take a drink!), who may have actually slipped but probably not, to finish exquisitely in front of a jubilant North Stand.
The visitors were content to control the game in the second half, which almost let Latics in for their first goal. The sprightly Arouna Kone, who looked as though he may pull off a moment of brilliance at any moment, slammed an unstoppable strike into the roof of the net… but was (correctly) flagged offside. There may possibly have been a way into the game at this point, as the Wigan crowd started to sense a sensational comeback.
But no. The visitors won a free kick just outside the Wigan area, which van Persie slammed into the wall. Sadly, the ball fell inch-perfectly for the predatory Hernandez, who wrongfooted an unsighted Al Habsi for an easy goal in the end. Once again, when you’re in form, everything seems to fall magically into place in front of your eyes.
A final lapse from Jean Beausejour let United in for their fourth, and it was complete. Van Persie again, unjust punishment for a hard-working Wigan performance, but the quality of the Red Devils was simply too much in the end.
It is unfair to blame Wigan this afternoon, as there was plenty going forward to trouble lesser teams. Indeed, I thought our performance would have justified at least one goal, but again the final piece of the puzzle was lost down the back of the radiator or in the dog’s stomach or something.
Certain characters were simply oozing confidence, in particular Emmerson Boyce and the aforementioned Arouna Kone. On one occasion, he took the ball a whole 75 yards only to be well blocked by Jonny Evans. Gah, why does he have to go off for that silly little international competition? We need a clever ruse to get him to stay here – Whelan, buy him a 60-inch telly or something!
Ah well, it’s all in the past now. The win over Villa was the important one, and anything this afternoon was a bonus. A new mini-era begins this weekend when the new guys get their chance – will we see another Amr Zaki in Henriquez or Espinoza? I know I say this of every new player, but we can only hope…