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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Manchester United 2 Wigan 0

Goals from Patrice Evra and Javier Hernandez took United level on points with faltering Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.

It was a victory that became a formality when Wigan had captain Antolin Alcaraz and striker Hugo Rodallega sent off in three senseless second-half minutes.

United were leading through Evra's first goal in three-and-a-half years - a far-post header made easy by Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi's reluctance to venture off his line to collect a routine Ji-sung Park cross.

Then Paraguayan international Alcaraz needlessly slid into Darren Fletcher in the 59th minute to give referee Martin Atkinson no option but to show him a second yellow card.

Alcaraz had hardy reached the dressing room when, Rodallega saw an instant red for throwing himself into a dangerous two-footed challenge on Rafael.

United had to wait until the 77th minute to make the numbers pay, substitute Javier Hernandez stooping to score with a fierce header from Rafael's cross.

United are now unbeaten in 27 matches.

And while once again this was far from vintage, their level of consistency is something Chelsea, Arsenal and the rest can only dream about.

Rooney could and should have ended his own troubles in front of goal.

But he saw Al Habsi produce a flying save to tip over when he met Rafael's cross with the meat of his forehead.

Then he miskicked another delivery from the Brazilian full-back straight at Al Habsi from six yards as the ball came bouncing through a ruck of players.

He hasn't scored in open play for his club since March.

Some fans stayed behind to chant Rooney's name as he trudged off at the final whistle and were rewarded.

But for others, forgiveness will take much more than simply putting pen to paper.

It was ironic that some members of George Best's family were inside Old Trafford.

It was a classy gesture by United to invite the kin of the club's most iconic figure to mark the fifth anniversary of Best's tragic death.

But the football on show would have been anathema to the great man.

With Ryan Giggs joining Rooney and Scholes on the bench and Dimitar Berbatov rested, the home team struggled at times during the first half.

One deflected shot by Nani dipped inches wide, but United's fans were clearing their throats to make their feelings clear when Evra scored just before the break.

Just seconds earlier, Wigan had been complaining that Charles N'Zogbia had been fouled by Nemanja Vidic on the edge of the penalty area after bursting past the United skipper.

Latics boss Martinez said: "I'm not going to speak about the referee but if it had been 11 v 11 it would have been a great second half.

"When you go down to eight outfield players at Old Trafford it becomes a mental exercise rather than a football match."