Manchester United 3 Wigan Athletic 1

Last updated : 26 December 2006 By Footymad Previewer
Manchester United extended their lead at the top of the Premiership table to four points after a comfortable victory over Wigan Athletic.

United's latest success against the Latics at Old Trafford hardly came as a surprise.

Since Wigan started their Premiership life last season, the Red Devils have banged in 12 goals to the Latics' two and taken maximum points.

Add to that a 4-0 drubbing in last season's Carling Cup final and you can understand the sinking feeling Wigan get whenever they face Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

United achieved their latest Premiership double against their Lancashire rivals with Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville rested and Louis Saha and Cristiano Ronaldo on the substitute's bench.

Wigan held out until half-time before Ferguson brought on Ronaldo for Darren Fletcher.

Within five minutes United were 2-0 up courtesy of a Ronaldo double and Wigan were heading for another defeat.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer added United's third goal just before the hour, although Wigan skipper Leighton Baines did bag a consolation effort with his injury-time penalty.

Wigan must have felt like the fisherman waiting for the storm as they went in goalless at the break.

They had comfortably held a lacklustre United team in the opening half with their defence coping competently, although goalkeeper Chris Kirkland had to make two excellent saves.

The first came after six minutes when Wayne Rooney connected with West Brown's right-wing cross at the far post and Kirkland produced a brilliant reflex stop to deny the England striker from point-blank range.

Kirkland made another good save in the 40th minute with a full stretch effort to keep out Paul Scholes' ferocious low 35-yard shot.

Ferguson brought on Ronaldo at the start of the second half and 70 seconds later the deadlock was broken.

Scholes curled his corner into the centre of the Wigan penalty area and Ronaldo was left free to rise and head the ball home from eight yards.

Wigan were reeling again three minutes later. The Latics defenders performed their own seasonal pantomime routine as they made a complete hash of clearing the ball from Solskjaer.

Ji-Sung Park pounced and was brought down by Gary Teale close to the penalty spot, leaving referee Mike Riley no option but to blow for a foul.

The on fire Ronaldo stepped up to blast his effort to Kirkland's right, but the England goalkeeper guessed correctly to keep the ball out.

Unfortunately for Wigan, the rebound fell perfectly for Ronaldo to tap his shot in from eight yards.

United built further on their momentum in the 59th minute with the best goal of their trio.

John O'Shea's clearance out of defence saw Rooney win the ball in his aerial challenge with Emmerson Boyce.

Solskjaer raced on to the ball, beating off the challenge of Wigan defender Fitz Hall, before placing his shot beyond the on-rushing Kirkland and into the net from 12 yards.

Rooney was denied a deserved goal in the 76th minute. Good work by O'Shea, Solskjaer, Park and Ronaldo created the opening for Rooney in the Wigan box and his vicious shot from 12 yards crashed against the bar.

To their credit, Wigan kept on going and were rewarded with a goal seconds into injury time.

A superb run saw substitute David Cotterill put into the United box from the right before being upended by Mikael Silvestre.

Mr Riley pointed to the spot and Baines stepped up to blast the resulting penalty straight into the middle of the net as United goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar dived to his left.

But the goal could not dampen United's joy as they extended their lead over Chelsea at the top of the table.