United’s seemingly first-choice back five of Edwin van der Sar, Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrce Evra sat behind a midfield four of Nani, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Ji-sung Park, with Gabriel Obertan seeking to support Macheda in an advanced position.
The Reds made all the early running, a Nani free swirling in from the left and forcing Ali Al Habsi into an important save to prevent Vidic getting the decisive touch at the back post. Meanwhile, at the other end there was a few examples of the danger Wigan pose, particularly with pace on the break. Hugo Rodallega had a powerful run and shot that van der Sar saved comfortably, and later he sent an ambitious overhead kick high and wide.
Nani forced another good save from Al Habsi after 12 minutes when his dipping drive was tipped round the post for a corner. The Portuguese, along with Obertan, was United’s most dangerous attacking outlet, particularly from set-pieces. Sir Alex’s men mostly had Wigan pinned back in their defensive third, but despite a promising opening quarter of an hour, Wigan lived up to their name, with an athletic and physical approach that soon stifled United’s attacking intent.
Apart from a few half chances, United’s openings were few and far between in a largely disappointing first half, that was until right on the stroke of 45 minutes. Just as the home fans seemed to be losing patience with a distinct lack of penetration in attack, Park swung in a deep, inviting cross from the right, and Evra seemed to hang endlessly in the