Man Utd 5, Wigan 0
The Christmas arrival of Wigan at Old Trafford is to Manchester United fans what the sight of Santa Claus is to a five-year-old.
There is never a dull moment and the expectancy and excitement is only surpassed by the unwrapping of presents.
The feeling is never reciprocated by the hosts whose generosity on the field to their Lancashire cousins makes even the unrepentant Ebeneezer Scrooge seem like a philanthropist of the highest order..
If United were Scrooge-like in their dealings, the same could not be said of Wigan – especially to Dimitar Berbatov who helped himself to a hat-trick.
This Boxing Day romp was the Reds’ 13th consecutive Premier League win over Wigan and you can add a 4-0 Carling Cup final victory to that record.
Wigan have never even taken a point off the Reds and their only ever goal at Old Trafford came courtesy of a Leighton Baines penalty exactly five years ago.
That record was never in any danger of ending in the clubs’ latest encounter, although United’s makeshift defence, with former Wigan winger Antonio Valencia at right-back and central midfielder Michael Carrick at centre-half, looked vulnerable on paper.
It proved a different matter on grass with both players outstanding in an almost routine win for their side.
United were helped by the 39th minute dismissal of Wigan striker Conor Sammon for little more than an over enthusiastic slap across Carrick’s face, but the action by referee Phil Dowd would have made little difference to the result.
United were already a goal ahead after only eight minutes thanks to the initiative of left-back Patrice Evra..
His darting run in between Victor Moses and James McArthy on the left side of the box ended with him rolling the ball into the path of Ji Sung park who scored with a beautifully placed shot into the net from 12 yards.
Berbatov opened his account in the 41st minute, shrugging off Antolin Alcaraz’s challenge at the far post to rifle in a shot from six yards aftere being picked out by Darron Gibson’s right-wing cross.
Berbatov’s second goal after 58 minutes was the best of the afternoon.
The Bulgarian showed grest skill to collect Valencia’s cross from the right inside the penalty area before cleverly turning Wigan skipper Gary Caldwell and scoring with a fierce shot from 12 yards.
Valencia was on the scoresheet in the 75th minute when his low shot from the right side of the box 12 yards out went into the bottom far corner of the net like a bullet.
When Alcaraz’s foul on Park two minutes later was adjudged by Mr Dowd to be just inside the Wigan box, there was no doubting the penalty taker.
Berbatov stepped up to roll the spot kick into the bottom left corner of the net with goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi glued to his line.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: Injuries and illness put pressure on us today, but it was good that we got the early goal. We lost Jonny Evans with a thigh injury at half-time, but fortunately did not suffer any other blows.
“The consistency of the team is good at the moment and the way we have been playing we knew that somenone was eventually going to suffer.
“It was the right game for Dimitar Berbatov and we are really pleased he scored a hat-trick.
“If we are joint top with City on New Year’s Day, I will be happy.”
Turning to the sending off, Fergson said: “Sammon is a stong player who throws himself about, but there seemed nothing malicious and Michael did not make a meal of it.”
Wigan boss Roberto Martinez said: “There had been a number of challenges between Conor and Michael Carrick – the kind you get in every football match. But football is a contact sport and the red card was a shocking decision.
“What United have achieved as a team over the last 20 years is what every team wants. They have a real winning mentality.
“Despite the injuries, there are never any excuses. They adapt to every situation and you have to be able to beat them mentally to succeed.”
Man Utd 5, Wigan 0