The end-of-year celebrations came a day early at Old Trafford as United saw out 2009 with a flourish, disposing of Wigan Athletic with ease and panache.
Wayne Rooney was the bright spark, while Rafael and Antonio Valencia also impressed in a second 5-0 win over Wigan this season. Rooney, Michael Carrick, Rafael, Dimitar Berbatov and Valencia all found the net as United’s excellent run of big wins against the Latics continued unabated. Roberto Martinez’s men simply had no response to an imposing Reds display.
Sir Alex can celebrate his 68th birthday on New Year’s Eve safe in the knowledge United are within striking distance of leaders Chelsea (two points behind). He made just one change from the team that beat Hull on Sunday; Ji-Sung Park replacing Ryan Giggs on the left flank - such continuity has been rare given the chopping and changing the United boss has been forced into in recent weeks.
This fixture has been kind to United though; the Reds have won all ten meetings with Wigan, scoring 30 goals. Now was no time to stop that free-scoring trend. Sir Alex’s men set out on a pursuit to continue it with unrelenting determination. The first attempt on goal came in the fourth minute when Valencia, who shone against his former club, made a darting run into the area and forced a fine, low save from Chris Kirkland in the Wigan goal.
After 15 minutes Rooney, who looked right up for this match from the off, arced in a wonderful cross from the right that Berbatov headed tamely at Kirkland. The Bulgarian had a penalty claim turned down by referee Lee Mason moments later, before Rooney warmed the palms of Wigan’s goalkeeper with a stinging 25-yard drive. From the resulting corner Nemanja Vidic’s shot was cleared off the line by Paul Scharner. The Reds were well in the mood.
Seconds later Rooney – now at the centre of everything – went even closer with an