United squeeze past Wigan
United beat Wigan to go second, two points behind Liverpool
By Richard Bailey. Last Updated: January 14, 2009 11:01pm
Quick out the blocks: Rooney fires United ahead after one minute
Manchester United leapfrogged Chelsea into second place in the Premier League and within two points of leaders Liverpool after a 1-0 win over Wigan.
The result also means that if United win against Bolton on Saturday they will go top with Liverpool playing Everton on Monday.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side flew out of the traps and scored in the first minute after Cristiano Ronaldo crossed for Wayne Rooney to simply tap home.
Rooney was then withdrawn seven minutes later with a suspected hamstring injury and his replacement Carlos Tevez should have wrapped the game up when he raced through on 24 minutes.
Tevez tried to round goalkeeper Chris Kirkland but his touch was too heavy allowing Titus Bramble to get back.
Wigan, who played two up top throughout, composed themselves after their nervy start and pressurised United, especially in the second half but the home side held out for a valuable three points.
Wigan largely held their own throughout, as befits a side who have won on five of their last six Premier League outings.
What a pity for Steve Bruce therefore that Rooney had scored before his untimely exit.
The England star had already been flagged offside once as he tried to set up a Red Devils assault. But there was no debate when Michael Carrick nudged a low Ronaldo cross his way.
When Rooney tapped home from three yards, the clock was still to reach 60 seconds.
Unfortunately for Rooney, his meaningful contribution was nearly done as it was not long afterwards that he limped to the sidelines gingerly nursing a hamstring injury that triggered his immediate departure and Tevez's introduction.
It might not have been the way he wished but Rooney's absence, for an expected three weeks, offers the South American the opportunity he has been craving virtually all season.
If Tevez needed it, Ferguson delivered one final piece of advice to the South American just before the second half began, although it was presumably not to avoid a series of desperate Wigan attempts to stop him, which was the most notable feature of the first few minutes after the restart.
Slowly though, Wigan began to force the pace. Zaki emerged as more of a threat and if the rebound from a shot by the Egyptian had bounced more kindly towards Taylor, the Latics might well have been level before Maynor
Figueroa and Antonio Valencia threatened the home goal.
By that point, United had been dragged into a game they did not want, where space was at a premium and the possession they did get was squandered.
In fairness, the hosts should have had a penalty when Ronaldo's angled drive struck Lee Cattermole, part of an outstanding midfield effort that gave United far more problems than Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard provided on Sunday.
Ronaldo and Berbatov both fired just wide as a measure of their usual attacking invention returned to United ranks, although it was Wigan who finished on top, leaving Bruce to reflect on what might have been as both he - and his club - wait for their first win against the Old Trafford outfit.
|Manchester United||Team Statistics||Wigan Athletic|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|2||Shots on Target||3|
|3||Shots off Target||11|
Barclays Premier League
|15||West Bromwich Albion||15||15|
|17||West Ham United||15||13|