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  • 26 December 2011
  • • 20:30
  • • Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Referee: P. Dowd
  • • Attendance: 75183
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Manchester United 5-0 Wigan: Dimitar Berbatov Hat-Trick Downs Visitors As Champions Romp To Fifth Successive Premier League Victory

The visitors were harshly done by with Conor Sammon's first-half red card but the Bulgarian's treble and goals from Park Ji-Sung and Antonio Valencia underlined their superiority

Dimitar Berbatov was the hat-trick hero for Manchester United as they crushed the helpless ten men of Wigan 5-0 to record a fifth successive Premier League victory.

Park Ji-Sung recorded an early opener after just seven minutes after a thrilling run by Patrice Evra. Conor Sammon was then sent off for the visitors, somewhat harshly, for an elbow on Michael Carrick towards the end of the first-half, followed immediately by Berbatov's well-taken first goal.

A fine turn from Berbatov saw him notch the third in the second half before Antonio Valencia buried a fantastic long-range strike on 75 minutes. The Bulgarian striker then capped off his afternoon when he dispatched a penalty, awarded for a foul by Antonio Alcaraz on Park on the edge of the area.

Sir Alex Ferguson opted to rest Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, both dropping to the bench as Berbatov partnered Javier Hernandez in attack. Carrick was forced to fill in at centre-half after Phil Jones failed to recover from a facial injury, while Anders Lindegaard continued in goal for the home side. Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, named an unchanged XI from that which drew with Liverpool.

Antonio Valencia, starting at right-back, quickly found space in an attacking capacity but it was, however, his counterpart at left-back, Patrice Evra, who forged the breakthrough after seven minutes, embarking on a swashbuckling run past multiple defenders into the area before pulling back to Park, who, with a little space, aimed a clinical finish into the corner of the net.

Having been brushed aside for the opener, Wigan nearly created an equaliser against the run of play, with Ronnie Stam finding space to cross from the right, but Sammon failed to get his head to a good chance.

Approaching the half-hour mark, with United comfortably on top, Nani put Wigan fans’ hearts in their mouths when he dispatched a free-kick just past the post from an excellent central position outside the penalty area.

Wigan constructed another counter, with some quick interactions outside the penalty area ending with Sammon receiving the ball on the edge of the box with his back to goal, but the striker opted to turn and offer Lindegaard a tame shot rather than build on the promising position.

A terrible two minutes for the visitors then began when Sammon was seemingly harshly red-carded for what referee Phil Dowd judged was an attempted elbow on Carrick when jostling to receive the ball.

The blow was compounded when Berbatov immediately capitalised, displaying strength and technique to take the ball at point-blank range away from the clutches of Alcaraz and finish stylishly past the helpless Ali Al-Habsi, leaving Wigan reeling at the break.

United brought on youngster Zeki Fryers for Jonny Evans at half-time while Wigan turned to Franco di Santo to recreate the focal point in attack that Sammon had been.

However, the hosts might have gone three up immediately after the restart, Park’s close-range header blocked by Al-Habsi with the South Korean unable to reach the rebound. Berbatov then shot over in a threatening start for Ferguson’s men.

David Jones made an admirable attempt to pull one back when Wigan were awarded a free-kick from 25 yards out, his left-footed effort speeding just inches past Lindegaard’s post.

But the Old Trafford outfit delighted their faithful by extending their lead just before the hour, Berbatov displaying a delightful spin on the ball to take Gary Caldwell out of the equation before putting it away emphatically.

Neither half-time substitute covered themselves in glory when Fryers’ slip allowed Di Santo a free effort on goal, but the Argentine’s shot was scuffed and the chance wasted.

Fellow replacement Rooney then carved out a great opportunity for Hernandez with a lofted ball into the box, but the Mexican’s point-blank shot was saved well by Al-Habsi.

But it did not take too much longer for the rampant hosts to score again, with Carrick’s simple pass supplying Valencia on the right following a Wigan clearance. The Ecuadorian took one touch before rifling into the far corner in style.

Things went to bad for worse for Wigan when Alcaraz was adjudged to have fouled Park in the area. The penalty was awarded despite the Paraguayan’s insistence that the offence occurred outside the box, and Berbatov’s spot-kick was calmness personified to wrong-foot Al-Habsi and seal his hat-trick.

When the full-time whistle arrived to spare the visitors further humiliation, United celebrated a win that saw them catch up to leaders Manchester City's points tally.

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