By R. Nugent.
Ravel Morrison and Manchester United gave a lovely display of how football should be played, as they emphatically defeated Wigan 4-1 thanks to a brace from Morrison and a goal each from forgotten man David Petrucci and local boy Ezekiel Fryers.
United started off the game as expected with plenty of possession, but the first 15 minutes of the game were played around the middle of the park, with neither side showing much of an attacking threat. This being until Morrison received a beautiful pass from returning Irishman Darron Gibson and ran at the Wigan defence – a dazzling piece of dribbling, a quick turn back and then a sublime curling effort into the far corner. Morrison continued this and looked a threat every time he got on the ball. His control of the football coming from all angles at a world class standard. It’s no wonder the boy is rated so highly around the club.
Yet when the coaching staff must’ve been expecting their boys to take advantage of the possession statistics, United seemed to take the foot off the gas a little. The cohesion in their play was there but there was not enough creativity in the final third to really trouble their opponents at this stage of the game. Wigan began to get a hold of possession a bit more, but with no conventional centre forward, they could do no more than that. This fact being epitomised by Dawson launching an effort from 40 yards way over the bar after the boys in blue holding onto the ball for a long period of time.
As United began to up the tempo of their play – thanks to young Morrison again, they then began to cause more problems for their local rivals, who were working like beavers (as Chris Kamara might say). Kiernan at centre back epitomising their organised display. Morrison being double/triple marked at times.
The tempo upped, the passing flowed and great interchange came into play, culminating in Jessie Lingard being fouled near the edge of the box. Paul Pogba took the responsibility of the set piece from Gibson and must’ve been convinced he’d scored only for a marvellous save by Nicholls in the Wigan net. The Frenchman curled the ball around the wall with it heading for the top corner, but was somehow saved, Pogba looking to the heavens in disbelief. He wasn’t the only one in the ground with that reaction. From the resulting corners Will Keane had a double effort that couldn’t quite find the net, with Petrucci blazing the ball over the bar – out of the ground in fact.
One nil leads as we all know can be dangerous, and that case was almost proven when Nouha Dicko of Wigan missed what seemed to be a sitter from a teasing ball that curled into the box. United were almost left rueing the fact they had only one goal converted from their masses of possession. After all their dominance, they may have felt lucky and happy to head in at the break with their slender lead still intact.
The second half began with much of the same from the Reds – possession wise, but there was much more purpose added to their play. This coinciding with Wigan possibly tiring a little as Will Keane’s lovely work led to a second for Morrison who coolly placed the ball into the far corner from the edge of the box. It was almost three immediately after, when Pogba cut in from the right and rocketed a shot marginally wide from 30 yards out. The question must be posed as to why he wasn’t played in a more central position during the game.
Their place at the top of the table was then ensured in the 63rd minute when captain Petrucci volleyed home a clearance from 15 yards. A rasper passed numerous bodies in the Wigan box, with Nicholls left hapless. The goal being deserved of United’s improved, purposeful second half performance.
The next fifteen minutes were played in a very professional manner as would be expected from a United side, as they passed and passed, moved and moved. Wigan may as well have been chasing shadows. With the Latics demoralised and even more tired Zeki Fryers popped up with a header passed the Wigan keeper to make it four. This occurring shortly after Wigan keeper Nicholls almost put the ball into his own net after an outrageous bobble.
The game was over as a contest, but this didn’t stop Wigan’s most dangerous, yet very raw star Dicko turning Vermijl and hammering a magnificent shot into the roof of the net. The goal rivalling Morrison’s for the best of the match. Unfortunately this was the last bit of action for the Belgian who limped his way down the tunnel with an injury from slipping in the lead up to the goal.
The entertainment of the game was never in doubt, and this was illustrated by lovely wing play from Athletic’s Buxton, squaring a pass to Morris who was magnificently foiled by a great stop from Ben Amos.
In the end United did exactly what they set out to do and deservedly take their place at the top of the tree with 16 points from a possible 21 and 23 goals in their last nine matches. Manager Warren Joyce will most definitely feel he made the right decision to stay and the fact that Darron Gibson and Rafael Da Silva returned to play a full 90 minutes made it a very productive evening for all involved.
Man of the Match
Ravel Morrison. The young Mancunian conveyed to everyone watching why he is regarded so highly at the club. He was involved in most of the good play from his side and made his presence felt all over the match. The passing and first touch was up there with the best in the world and would have some of the Premier League’s top midfielders in awe. A special mention must also be made for Davide Petrucci who looks like another great Manchester United prospect.
United: Amos; Rafael, M.Keane, Fryers, Vermijl (Leao 84); Pogba (Cofie 76), Gibson, Petrucci, Lingard; Morrison; W.Keane (Massacci 71). Subs: Jacob, McGinty.
Wigan: Nicholls; Buxton, Langley, Kiernan, Mustoe; Chow, R. Watson (Rugg, 62), Redmond; Dicko, Dawson (Angoy, 62); Morris. Subs: Cottrill, McCormack, Boothman.
Check the latest Reserve team statistics here.