United started 2013 with a statement of intent by recording a comfortable 4-0 away victory at Wigan Athletic to maintain a seven-point lead at the top of the table.
Any thoughts of a repeat of the costly defeat at the DW Stadium last season were dismissed with strike partners Javier Hernandez and Robin van Persie sharing the goals.
Sir Alex made five changes to the team that saw off West Brom with Rafael enjoying a welcome return and Ryan Giggs operating on the left flank. Although it was a subdued opening from the Reds, Hernandez forced a comfortable save out of Ali Al-Habsi before having a goal ruled out on 12 minutes.
It was the right call by the officials but Giggs' pass to create the opening was superb and the 39-year-old was busy turning back the clock on the left wing and being serenaded by the away supporters. Wigan kept possession impressively but, a wild shot from Jean Beausejour aside, there was little threat and the Barclays Premier League leaders began to impose themselves on proceedings.
Ashley Young was denied a penalty after he and Beausejour tumbled on the edge of the box with referee Andre Marriner waving play on but the pressure started to build on Al-Habsi's goal. A delighful first-time cross by Giggs was defended manfully by Maynor Figueroa at the far post to lead to United's first corner of the afternoon and the class started to tell.
Gary Caldwell had to clear when Al-Habsi spilled a van Persie flag-kick with Jonny Evans and Giggs trying to profit and the keeper also dealt with a Rafael drive rather unconvincingly, even if he did parry it to safety.