In contrast to an incredible number of Manchester United’s matches this season, there was little dramatic or spectacular about their win over West Brom on Saturday, yet that makes it arguably all the more impressive.
They may have amassed a seven-point lead atop the Premier League, but, having previously had to come from behind to win on eight occasions, United have been far from dominant throughout the season. While United have been scintillating going forward, at the back it has been a different story.
There are various factors for the defensive deficiencies, but the absence of captain Nemanja Vidic surely ranks high on that list. It was no coincidence that the Serbian center back was making just his second start after returning from a second serious injury in a year as United put in a strong defensive display in keeping a clean sheet against West Brom.
However, his injury problems mean that Vidic is perhaps unlikely to start when United travel to Wigan on New Year’s Day.
“The doctor is managing the games [that I play],” he said, according to Manchester United’s official website. “Over the first two or three months I have to really look at the games I can play because sometimes I might have a reaction. This is a process I have to go through. I am glad I have managed to play after three months. It is nice to be on the pitch and playing games. Hopefully I can.”
Vidic’s potential absence from the starting lineup is compensated by the probable return to fitness of Phil Jones and Rafael. Having been rested against West Brom, Robin van Persie looks set to come back in to the team.
After taking just a solitary point from their previous six matches, Wigan come into the clash with United on the back of a morale-boosting and potentially vital 3-0 win at Aston Villa. Manager Roberto Martinez has no new fitness concerns, but is still without defenders Antolin Alcaraz and Adrian Lopez as well as midfielders Ben Watson, Albert Crusat and Ryo Miyaichi.
Wigan have an awful record against United, having lost 14 out of 15 of their Premier League meetings. However, the one exception came the last time the sides met at the DW Stadium when they memorably triumphed 1-0.
D: Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa
M: Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour
F: Kone, Di Santo, Maloney
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra
M: Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Young
F: Hernandez, Van Persie
Prediction: Despite the anomaly that was the corresponding fixture last season, Wigan have generally provided meek opposition for United as they did when they succumbed 4-0 at Old Trafford back in September. If Vidic is absent then United could be more vulnerable at the back, although Wigan have struggled in front of goal this season.
Another comfortable United win looks on the cards.
Wigan 1-3 Manchester United
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League encounter will kick-off at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available via Fox Soccer 2Go.