Its coming back, the Premier League that is and this weekend's game is nearly as hard as they get. An away day tie with Manchester United, and you appear like you are all set. The hope for many Wigan fans, is that we can repaet what we did last season, and snatch a win of the Premier League's most succesful team.
Yet before the game starts, there are some questions to answer and Gene over at the Busby Babes, has the answer to them, as we cross fingers and pray that they won't be at their full bite. So far United have looked a little bit on the sloppy side conceding five goals in their opening three games, and that is not like a Sir Alex side.
So with the sniff of blood, we go into the game full of hope!
1. It has been a slow start this season as far as United are concerned. Even though you have picked up six out of a possible nine points, the teams chemistry and style on the pitch hasn't been as good. What do you put that down to?
I would agree with you, United certainly have been a disjointed side and they're perhaps fortunate to even have picked up six points at this moment in time. I'd argue the club has only played one good half of football (first-half versus Fulham).This is pretty general but I think it can be partly described by three reasons: (1) Injuries, particularly to the central-defenders, has greatly hindered the side as evidenced by poor Michael Carrick's struggles in partnering Nemanja Vidic -- a world-class player the past half-decade but the season-opener was the Serb's first competitive match in nine months. His rust has shown. The trickle-down effect of Carrick in the back four is that is takes him out of central-midfield -- his ability to provide stability to United's overall shape is criminally underrated. (2) New signings such as Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa have certainly settled in well but the other attackers have all struggled for the most part. This could be the adjustment to the new signings but it can also be (3) that not many players seem to be in peak form or have hit optimal fitness. I think much of this is because of the plethora of United players that participated in Euro 2012 and the Olympics and many did get a proper preseason to prepare for the current campaign.
2. One position you are missing is a chance creating deep lying midfielder, or the Paul Scholes later years role. Now with the signing of Kagawa and the rise of Tom Cleverly do you feel you are going to be well catered for in that area?
Once again, I'd agree with you. Fortunately for United and its supporters, the little genius -- who I'd argue is as influential as ever as a deep-lying playmaker now -- decided to return for another season. We will need to replace him next summer though because I don't see anybody on the United squad that can fulfill his current role -- I'd argue only the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, and maybe Luka Modric (perhaps there are others that don't immediately pop to my mind, but this class of player is incredibly rare) have the ability to quickly spray arrowed diagonal passes to the wide attackers like Scholes can. Cleverley's movement is good and his short-passing is both accurate and quick, but he's not a deep-lying playmaker nor does he have this sort of passing range. Kagawa is a No.10 at this stage of his career and I don't see him being the 'Scholes replacement'. Carrick's positional awareness is tremendous, his ability to circulate the ball is very useful, and his passing range is pretty good -- just not world-class like Scholes. In my opinion, Modric was always the ideal 'Scholes replacement' but to Madrid he's departed to :(
3. Obviously your major signing this summer has been RVP, and with 4 goals from 3 games looks like money well spent. Can he keep this record up? And how will he fit in when there is a fit Wayne Rooney?
I'll admit that when the RvP signing was announced, I wasn't in love with it nor was I against it. I didn't feel it was necessary but at the same time, we were adding a world-class player to the squad and these sort of players don't grow on trees (or arrive for under £30m anymore) -- alarmingly, United don't have many of these players at the moment. However, I'm really starting to feel fortunate the signing was done because Rooney's form has increasingly dipped in 2012. Wazza was genuinely world-class for the run-in of the 2010/11 season and for the early-portion of the 2011/12 one as a No.10, but his overall contribution greatly declined and he began to sputter United's attacks. He was still bagging goals though so the thought was probably to move him to a No.9 role when the Kagawa signing was done. Then RvP arrived... it's anybody's guess as to how Sir Alex Ferguson will use the trio of RvP, Kagawa, and Rooney together -- I see players there that enjoy playing in the roles of a No.9 and a No.10, but I don't see anybody there who would be pleased by being pushed out wide in attack. The legendary man-management skills of Fergie will likely be tested soon and it's anybody's guess as to how it will all play out. My personal preference for the moment? -- RvP as the first-choice No.9 and Kagawa as the No.10 because they're in better form. And yes, if RvP gets 30+ starts this season (I know that's a big 'if' when considering his injury history), I'd bet my soul that he'll bag at least 20 goals.
4. How do you feel the title race is brewing up this season. Of course you and the blue half of Manchester are in there for it, but are Chelsea real contenders? If so how will it finish up?
Prior to the season, I thought the clear contenders for the title were the two Manchester clubs and if I'm being honest, I would've tipped City for it. I also felt it would be the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, and possibly Newcastle battling it out for the remaining European places. I still think City will win the title and I think United will get sorted out and be genuine challengers over a 38-game season. I can see Chelsea lingering around until the spring but I'd be quite surprised if they finished ahead of either Manchester side. All three sides have warts though in my opinion: (1) City can be too narrow and predictable in attack and I think that's why Roberto Mancini has been experimenting with a back three and wing-back system. They also lack an influential deep-lying playmaker to compliment the terrific Yaya Toure. (2) United badly lack a physical presence in central-midfield as there's nobody to protect and screen for passers like Scholes, Carrick, and Cleverley. I think this will be United's ultimate undoing in England and on the continent. (3). Chelsea have a plethora of quality attacking-midfielders and deep-lying central-midfielders that are disciplined when they're taking a reactive approach. However, I think their lack of a dictating central-midfielder when they're attempting to be proactive is a huge weakness in their squad. Torres coming good for an entire season is a big ask too but I suppose they can always buy in January.
5. In the past Wigan vs United games have always been a game where you increase your goal difference. That changed last year, and Wigan fans are hoping for more, are you expecting a close game, or even an upset?
Yeah, you're exactly right and judging by Twitter discussions this week, I feel that many United fans might be overlooking Wigan a bit. Many are looking ahead to the upcoming midweek European tie and then next weekend's always toxic visit to Anfield. I suppose this same attitude by the club is possible but since they're highly paid professionals, I'll hope they'll be a bit more focused. I do have a few worries though: (1) Our injury situation was already dire (Rooney, Ashley Young, Darren Fletcher, Chris Smalling, and Phil Jones are all expected to be unavailable) and now there's further possible injury concern to RvP, Kagawa, and Jonny Evans due to recent internationals. (2) In addition, both Antonio Valencia and Javier Hernandez have long trips back to England after midweek international ties in the Americas. To be quite honest, I have no idea at this point what to expect from United. I'm also worried about Wigan's fine form since February and the trouble they caused United's midfield in April when the pressing was intense. A United 5-0 sort of victory, a narrow United win, a draw, a narrow Wigan upset, or a famous 4-0 Wigan victory at Old Trafford.... only the last possibility would surprise me.
6. Talking about that game last season, what do you say is your teams major difference between now and then? And how will it affect the game?
A quick note on Wigan: I'm pleased to hear that Jean Beausejour is likely out (not that I'm pleased to hear about injuries but I think you likely get my point) and that we won't be up against Victor Moses -- these are the two players I felt were the biggest threats to us in Wigan's attack.
I'm hoping Ryan Giggs doesn't start like he did in April -- especially in central-midfield because he was largely ineffective against the pressing. I quite honestly have no idea who will start since there are injury concerns for RvP, Kagawa, and Evans. This will largely influence United's approach and shape in attack. In addition, there are rumblings that newly-acquired left-back Alexander Buttner will make his debut. I'd expect a possible shaky back four that could be vulnerable in space -- particularly Vidic and Rio Ferdinand -- if the full-backs get caught out too high. I wish I could provide you a more solid answer but there appear to be many unknowns as I type this to you (the Thursday prior to the match).
7. Now for the Pie Eaters Footie special, what is your favourite flavoured pie?
Meat and potato. Would you be kind enough to send one my way as condolences if United are defeated on Saturday?