Manchester United's Wigan Victory Highlights Red Devils' Pedigree Depth

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2012

United: A New Collective
United: A New CollectiveAlex Livesey/Getty Images

It was a sun-soaked morning at Old Trafford on Saturday, but there was still reason to observe the gloom around Manchester United prior to the club’s matchup with Wigan Athletic.

As fantasy coaches worldwide will have been all but too aware, summer signatures Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa were unfortunate to have picked up slight knocks during the international break, ruling the latter out entirely while RVP took up a place on the bench.

With Kagawa omitted from the line-up, Sir Alex Ferguson was left to revert to a familiar-looking tactic in the 4-4-2 formation, with Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick occupying the central roles.

Of course, Ferguson is all but too seasoned a manager to ignore his side’s Champions League tie against Galatasaray in the coming week, a factor which undoubtedly played its part on the squad selection.

However, the Scot will not have been taking Wigan for granted, and there was a distinct cause for revenge following United’s loss to the Latics last season, an encounter which ultimately had a great bearing on their eventual title loss to Manchester City.

With Kagawa’s replacements taken care of, the onlooker’s eye will then have looked towards whom would be fronting the Red Devils’ attack.

With Wayne Rooney out of commission for another two to four weeks following his gashed leg against Fulham, it would be Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck who led the assault.

In a recent article, I pondered whether or not these two forwards would be able to capitalise upon Rooney’s absence with some standout performances of their own.

For some time now, the question has been raised as to how Rooney and Van Persie would work as a pair, and if the two contrasting styles of the players can flow in motion.

A question that perhaps should have been posed was how the English giants would fare if United’s primary attackers were unavailable altogether, as was the case for much of today.

In truth, both Welbeck and Hernandez showed their inexperience at times.

Within five minutes of kickoff, the latter had won his side a penalty—albeit unfairly—which was promptly saved by Ali Al-Habsi.

The Mexican international eventually got on the scoreboard, the second in a 14-minute haul for the home side, but numerous chances were squandered.

That being said, Welbeck and Hernandez both gave reason to impress and after struggling for goal sources in their first three league games, it was encouraging to see a collective contribution from Manchester United.

Generally speaking, a debut goal is something for a manager to be pleased about, proof that a new face is fitting in amongst his fresh surroundings.

So, how happy Alex Ferguson will have been to see two of his summer purchases getting in on the scoring action in their first Premier League forays.

Alexander Büttner finished after a confident run from the back, and was defensively impressive as he deputised for an absent Patrice Evra, assisting Chicharito's goal in the process.

The left-back inconspicuously arrived from Vitesse in August and was greeted with a feeling of “Who?” by all in the Premier League fraternity.

That said, if Büttner’s performance today is anything to go by, the youngster’s manager may have unearthed another diamond in the rough, showing that United’s scouting network may just be as strong as ever.

The other new signing to score in his Premeirship bow was Nick Powell, and although his involvement was altogether more subtle, the 18-year-old’s 20-minute cameo was a promising one, and his goal was that of a far maturer mind.

With the questions revolving around who will replace the soon to depart Paul Scholes—another name on Saturday’s scoresheet—United can perhaps now feel safe in handing Powell increased action this season.

There was doubts over whether or not the summer signing would be able to make the step up to the Premier League standard, even after showing such impressive form at Crewe Alexandra.

While he isn’t quite there yet, the teenager is one more addition in a nigh upon endless line of youth talent to come out of the Theatre of Dreams, and has put some doubts to rest with a debut goal.

In what was a generally fresh-faced side, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were a vitally experienced touch to the team and re-established a rare partnership together.

Jonny Evans replaced the Serbian, Vidic, late in the game; after such a defensively strained last two months at Old Trafford, a clean sheet was more than welcome.

A huge contributor in that factor was of course the man between the pipes, Anders Lindegaard.

The Dane recently spoke to the Daily Mail about why his duel for a starting spot with David De Gea is healthy for the squad, saying:

“I have a lot of respect for him and I feel he has a lot of respect for me too. So it doesn't affect us at all," 

"From the first day he came to the club, we have both been telling each other ‘I think you can try to solve this situation in a different way.’”

Upon De Gea’s arrival, the Spaniard was projected to be the club’s primary choice out of hand, and while one superstar ‘keeper is what a lot of clubs would love, two very talented assets may be seen as a superior alternative by many others.

Of course, there will be those that claim a Week 4 tie against Wigan Athletic is a stroll in the Autumn park for a club like Manchester United, especially given the visitors’ record when travelling to Old Trafford.

However, there’s a lot more to be said for Roberto Martinez’s side, who would seem set to finish in a far more secure Premier League finish than they did in the last campaign.

After weeks of witnessing a lack of synchronisation and more than a close call or two, the win over Wigan was a day to remember for some of the Red Devils’ unsung heroes, both new and old.

While attention may be diverted to the storylines that unfolded at Loftus Road and the Brittania Stadium, Manchester United can be pleased that they may finally be getting into their grove, and it wasn’t courtesy of the usual suspects.

You can follow Tom on Twitter @TomSunderland_


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