WIGAN ATHLETIC 0, MANCHESTER UNITED 4
There were no costly slip ups this time as Manchester United cruised to an impressive victory at Wigan Athletic to maintain their seven-point lead at the top of the table.
Two goals apiece from Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez went a long way to erasing the painful memory of April’s 1-0 defeat at the JJB Stadium which proved damaging in their unsuccessful bid to hold on to their title.
That result changed the course of the championship race and also the battle to avoid relegation which Wigan achieved.
There was no mistake this time as United’s front two produced a masterclass in finishing which also made light of the absence of Wayne Rooney.
“Hernandez is a penalty-box player and van Persie was magnificent. They formed a great partnership,” enthused Sir Alex Ferguson who the previous day had celebrated his 71st birthday.
Perhaps equally important was the fact that United’s leaking defence kept back-to-back clean sheets in the space of 72 hours.
United made five changes to the team which beat West Brom on Saturday. They included a new strike pairing of van Persie and Hernandez.
They had to display patience as it took 35 minutes to make the all-important breakthrough when Patrice Evra’s shot was parried by keeper Ali Al-Habsi and Hernandez showed lightning-fast reactions to find the net.
And United finished the opening half with a healthy 2-0 lead after van Persie cut in from the left and curled an exquisite shot high into the far top corner of the net.
Wigan briefly threatened a comeback early in the second half when Arouna Kone had a goal ruled out for offside. It was a close call, but the correct decision as he had strayed too far forward.
Hernandez lofted a shot just over before United struck again just after the hour mark.
This time van Persie and Ashley Young played a one-two from a free kick and the Dutchman set up Hernandez who again showed razer-sharp reactions to fire home a low shot from 14 yards for his 12th of the campaign for the Reds.
Van Persie produced a delightful jinking run only to fire over. Had it gone in, it would have been a wonderful solo effort.
Jordi Gomez fired a free kick just wide while there was a let off for United who were lucky not to have Chris Smalling sent off for hauling back Kone as he burst clear.
Replays proved conclusively that Smalling was the last man and ought to have seen red as opposed to the yellow card which was produced.
United scored a fourth goal in the 88th minute and van Persie will not have an easier one in his career.
Substitute Danny Welbeck did the spadework and squared the ball for van Persie to score with the easiest of tap-ins from seven yards, his 19th for the Reds since his summer transfer from Arsenal.