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Man Utd revisit scene of last season's pivotal loss

ESPN staff
January 1, 2013
Defeat at Wigan sparked a run of one victory in four games for Manchester United last season © PA Photos
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Wigan boss Roberto Martinez wants his side to show the same single-minded attitude that propelled them to a shock victory over Manchester United last season when the Premier League leaders visit on New Year's Day.

The Latics' 1-0 victory over United in April was one of the more surprising results of the season and played a key part in their survival. It is the only one of the 16 meetings between the sides that United have not won, and normal service was resumed earlier this season when Sir Alex Ferguson's team were 4-0 winners at Old Trafford.

Martinez believes the club's perilous situation made them forget about who they were playing that day at the DW Stadium and, although Saturday's victory over Aston Villa lifted them out of the bottom three, he hopes they can adopt the same approach.

"United is one of the hardest games that you're going to have in this league," Martinez said. "They've set the pace in this year's competition, they've got seven points' difference already to the champions, which is an incredible start.

"In the same way, we are in such a situation where we need points that we can't afford to look at who we're playing against. We're playing at home and we need to make sure we take advantage of that.

"If you're looking at the previous games against Manchester United, the last one [at home] is the clear picture we've got in the back of our minds that if we are perfect and perform in the manner that we can do then we can challenge for three points against Manchester United.

"I think it was the first time we played the game without thinking who we were playing against. We were in such a desperate need of points that we could only focus on ourselves and we did that.

"Obviously looking at the rest of the history, the stats are very bleak because it shows you we're playing one of the best teams in the world. But we're excited, we're looking forward to it. The result and performance against Aston Villa has given us a real sense of confidence in ourselves and this is an opportunity to show what we can do.''

Saturday's 3-0 victory ended a run of one point from six games for Wigan, and there was more good news for the club when they announced their financial results for the year to May 2012. The club made a profit for the first time in six years, ending the season with a net profit of £4.3 million compared to a net loss of £7.2 million for the previous 12 months.

Wigan have been battling an injury crisis over the past few weeks but the situation seems to be easing and Martinez has no fresh worries ahead of Tuesday's match. Midfielders Ben Watson (broken leg), Albert Crusat (knee) and Ryo Miyaichi (ankle) and defender Adrian Lopez (hamstring) are all still out but defender Antolin Alcaraz may be available for the FA Cup clash with Bournemouth on Saturday after recovering from a long-term groin problem.

United full-back Rafael is expected to return from a four-match absence with a hamstring injury, while Phil Jones could also be available as manager Sir Alex Ferguson once again prepares to rotate his squad. Ferguson noted Michael Carrick was particularly tired after Saturday's win at West Brom, and top scorer Robin van Persie seems certain to be recalled.

Ryan Giggs is refusing to get carried away by United's seven-point lead at the top of the table. United head to Wigan having taken 37 points from a possible 42 since they were beaten by Tottenham at Old Trafford at the end of September.

Manchester City and Chelsea performed well over the weekend but there is nothing either of them can do to prevent United securing a record 20th title if Ferguson's men maintain their present form. But Giggs, a veteran of all 12 Premier League championship triumphs, acknowledges it is far too early to start thinking the job is done.

"We were this many points ahead with fewer games to go last season and it wasn't enough,'' Giggs said. "We are only halfway there and there are a lot of tough games to come.

"There is also the FA Cup and the Champions League, so there are other things to consider. We are in a great position and are happy where we are, but we know we have to carry on."

Key battle: Whatever Wigan do, they simply must stop Robin van Persie, which is far from easy. If he stays central, it will be the job of Gary Caldwell to get tight to the former Arsenal man. But if Caldwell succeeds, Van Persie can drift right - as he did against West Brom - to cut inside and threaten from distance. And if that fails, the Dutchman can pull left to deliver telling crosses from the flank, as he has done on multiple occasions already this season.

Player to watch: Antonio Valencia returns to a ground he knows well, not knowing if he will be employed at right-back or further forward. Wigan do occasionally defend too high up the pitch at home, so look for Valencia to break in behind onto any diagonal balls from deep.

Talking point: If Ferguson does choose to strengthen his United side during the January window, where is he in need of reinforcement? The defence has been shaky at times but has been boosted by the return of Nemanja Vidic, so perhaps a world class left winger?

Bet of the day: If Manchester United score early they will have enough class to win both halves of football at 5/2 with bet 365.

Prediction: 1-3

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