The score looks impressive, but considering what should have been the actual score on a landmark day in United history, the game turned out to be one more unnecessary drama. The wondrous 37-year-old Ginger Prince, Paul Scholes, celebrating his 700th game played for the club, also scored the first goal of the day at home at Old Trafford. An economical mixture of passion, energy and restraint, all at the same time, Scholes ruthlessly executed what his striker crew could not, tapping in a Nani pass from close range after a fine setup by Michael Carrick in the 55th minute after a poor, poor first half in front of Wigan’s goal. Scholes, whose laser-like passing patterns were remarkably consistent throughout, surely shows just how far United still have to come and go to locate his successor, as a certain Tom Cleverley is clearly not yet up to the task.
Beyond Scholes’ milestone, Sir Alex Ferguson managed his 500th home match, Ryan Giggs his 600th Premier League game and Rio Ferdinand his 400th.
Having stepped into second place in the Premier League table, one point behind behind Chelsea, United can now look forward to next Sunday’s juicy match against arch-rivals Liverpool at Anfield. Indeed, United’s blessed boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, may be hard pressed whether to pick an aging Patrice Evra or the exciting young alternative, the newly signed left back from Vitesse Arnhem, Alexander Buttner., who spent the match making buccaneer runs down the flank, setting up goals for both himself and Chicharito Hernandez. “He was rash at times but he has a great engine and great enthusiasm for the game,” Ferguson said of Buttner, although this writer found his heart in his mouth after the little Dutch Dynamo went into at least three dangerous tackles with different opponents with his studs up. At any rate, the Gaffer has a small problem to solve involved in selecting Patrice Evra, who, whether he’s too past-it to pick or not, will want to face his nemesis, Liverpool striker Luís Suarez and make him shake hands; or, whether it would be easier and more expedient to pick Buttner.
Another goal scoring debut belonged to the 18-year-old Nicky Powell , who scored United’s third goal with a beautifully executed twenty -yarder. “He’s going to be a really good player, terrific temperament, two feet, quick, a great striker of the ball. It’s been a great day for him,” Ferguson said.
Yet it was a tale of two halves. In the first half, United were lackadaisical, lazy and sloppy. Wigan’s hardworking midfield pairing of McCathy and McArthur, were very well drilled for the occasion by their manager Roberto Martinez. And Wigan dominated for long periods of the first half. But their top scorer Franco Di Santo was impotent in front of United’s goal as both Aurona Kone and Ivan Ramis botched easy chances while United’s aging center back pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand looked embarrassingly creaky.
Yet United might have been ahead by the fifth minute as goalie Ali Al-Habsi crashed into United’s striker Danny Welbeck, as they both hustled after a loose ball. It was an extremely arguable penalty and looked like one of Danny Welbeck’s less skillful dives. But it all became moot as Al-Habsi dived bravely to his left to save a Javíer Hernandez penalty. As the first half passed, one of the better young stoppers in the league, the elastic Omani custodian Ali Al-Habsi made a couple more opportune saves from Welbeck.
The second half, however, proved to ne a different story. With McCarthy tiring, Scholes was in the right place to give the Red Devils the lead in the 55th minute. United suddenly had more time to set up, and, in the 63rd minute, Chicharito stepped in to turn home Buttner’s exquisite low cross. Then Buttner celebrated his league debut with a cleverly executed shot past Al-Habsi from an extremely deep, obtuse angle in the 66th minute. And finally, 82 minutes in, Nick Powell executed one more booming twenty-yarder valley to add to his You Tube highlight video.
The only truly negative factor to the game came from a minor part of the Red Army which let loose with some nasty chants about the suffering of the 96 Liverpool fans killed by a trampling accident years ago in a riot at the Hillsborough stadium . Will they do it again at Anfield next Sunday and antagonize the locals only a week after old wounds have been reopened after the findings of an independent inquiry were released to the public? It’s a very sensitive issue for Liverpool, United and the F.A. I shall keep my fingers crossed.