The race for the title continues in earnest this festive period when a rash of games could see an opportunity arise to jump above our noisy-neighbours Manchester City. Our first fixture of the festive period pits us against struggling Wigan Athletic, on paper it is a game we should win, but we`d do well to not take anything for granted, strange things can happen in this wonderful game we`re all addicted to.
It`s around about this time of the year that the table begins to take shape and the wheat are sorted from the chaff. Hopefully there will be no slip ups and the opposition manger, on Boxing Day, reckons that Wayne Rooney is the key to a successful title push.
Here`s what Roberto Martinez had to say,
“Wayne is one of the best players in the world. To have a player who can score from nothing makes a difference and he is one.”
Interesting that as we head towards a new year, Wayne is the highest coring English player in this calendar year of 2011.
Manchester United Team News:
Once again injuries will disrupt Sir Alex Ferguson`s thinking. Likely to be sidelined for this clash will be Nemanja Vidic, Michael Owen, Anderson, Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young, Darren Fletcher and Rio Ferdinand. But, an added bonus is that Phil Jones, who limped off against Fulham after a clattering from Clint Dempsey, around the cheekbone, will be fit enough to play.
Player to watch: Antonio Valencia
Will be desperate to play against his former club and give a good display. With Ashley Young side-lined with a recurrence of an old injury, Valencia should get his wish to start.
Wigan Team News:
Life is never a bed of roses when you`re struggling at the wrong end of the table and to add to Roberto Martinez`s woes, he may well be without Steve Gohouri who is suffering from flu. Also rated as doubtful is Hugo Rodallega.
Player to watch: Al-Habsi
A keeper that kept Liverpool at bay in midweek including a blinding penalty save from Charlie Adam. Here`s hoping he doesn`t perform heroics two games on the trot.
Match Facts & Stats
The record books show that Wigan don`t have much luck United. We`ve met 13 times and United have won on every occasion.
On the goal front, we`ve netted 41 times to the 4 with only 1 of those being scored at Old Trafford.
Let`s hope this isn`t the time for those stats to take a dramatic shift in the other direction.
Even with a lengthy injury list Wigan should be no match for a United side that looked the business at Craven Cottage in midweek. I expect Wigan to be swept aside as United continue to keep the pressure up on the current leaders, Manchester City. I`ll go for a 3-0 win.
Our second match of the festive season, also at home, sees us take on troubled Blackburn Rovers.