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Premier League Preview: Wigan Athletic - Manchester United

Kick-Off: Wednesday, May 13; 20:00;
JJB Stadium, Wigan


So it's not quite the same as last season, but a win at the JJB this time around, a little earlier than last season, will put them just a point away from winning their third successive Premier League title - the second time they will have achieved this feat.

Last season, it went down to the wire, and it was Manchester United's last league game of the season, when Cristiano Ronaldo (from the spot) and Ryan Giggs settled a tense affair to bring home the silverware.

This time, United travel to a Wigan side looking in far worse form, as after an incredibly unlucky start to the season and a prolific middle, coming to their end, safe from relegation, the Latics have run out of steam.

They have lost four of their last five games, including one defeat to Championship-elect West Bromwich Albion, and drubbings at the hands of Arsenal and Everton. They are a side low on confidence and motivation, but one that will have a particular incentive going into tonight's game.

Manager Steve Bruce, a United legend from their first ever Premier League winning team, was being accused prior to last season's title decider of going easy on his former manager to ensure Fergie retained his title. This, before a ball had even been kicked.

Unsurprisingly, Bruce took offence to the suggestion and the result was a Wigan side that battled United and made them work for their victory. The same can no doubt be expected this time around.

But it may just as easily end up being in vain, as this is a United side that have won nine of their last eleven - drawing the other two (one of which ended in penalty shoot-out heartbreak). With the Liverpool & Fulham-induced 'slump' well and truly in the past, they are looking that calm, composed and complete outfit again.

The closest thing to a problem they have right now, beyond a couple of niggling injuries, is keeping a few distressed superstars from showing public dissent. Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez won the Manchester derby at the weekend, but not without making their own very different statements to Sir Alex Ferguson. Whether they both play or not this evening, this is a team with a point to prove, and every game plan under the sun to ensure that they do so.

FORM GUIDE

Wigan Athletic


May 9 v West Brom (A) LOST 3-1 (Premier League)
May 2 v Bolton Wanderers (H) DREW 0-0 (Premier League)
Apr 26 v Blackburn Rovers (A) LOST 2-0 (Premier League)
Apr 11 v Arsenal (H) LOST 4-1 (Premier League)
Apr 5 v Everton (A) LOST 4-0 (Premier League)

Manchester United

May 10 v Manchester City (H) WON 2-0 (Premier League)
May 5 v Arsenal (A) WON 3-1 (Champions League)
May 2 v Middlesbrough (A) WON 2-0 (Premier League)
Apr 29 v Arsenal (H) WON 1-0 (Champions League)
Apr 25 v Tottenham (H) WON 5-2 (Premier League)

TEAM NEWS

Wigan Athletic

First choice goalkeeper Chris Kirkland is still out with a back problem sustained at the weekend, with Richard Kingson set to step in between the sticks.

Paul Scharner has made the squad but may not be risked as he struggles with a knock to his ankle.

Up front, Mido is fit to return to proceedings, but Amr Zaki, despite not being as badly injured as first feared, will not be fit and has not made the squad.

Possible Line Up: Kingson; Melchiot, Bramble, Edman, Figueroa; Valencia, Cattermole, Brown, N'Zogbia; Mido, Rodallega.

Manchester United


As always, there is likely to be heavy rotation in the United squad ahead of the big game against Arsenal this weekend, at Old Trafford, that could potentially clinch them the league.

Calf and hamstring problems, respectively, have put Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans in doubt for the game, with John O'Shea ready to deputise if Sir Alex is to err on the side of caution.

Possible Line Up: Van der Sar; Rafael, O'Shea, Vidic, Evra; Fletcher, Scholes, Carrick, Ronaldo; Tevez, Rooney.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wigan Athletic - Antonio Valencia


He has been courted by tonight's opponents, among others, and is a player certainly deserving of a bigger stage. He will be playing for just that tonight, and is likely to be the Latics' main threat on the counterattack, in what promises to be a fascinating duel with Patrice Evra.

Manchester United - Cristiano Ronaldo

It goes without saying that his every pouting face, flailing arm and sit-down protest will be scrutinised this evening, after his weekend histrionics at Old Trafford, when substituted in the Manchester derby. He is likely to be booed, and equally likely to answer his critics the only way he knows how: by scoring goals.

PREDICTION


Wigan are a fighting side, and they will do their utmost to make it difficult for Manchester United, but class will ultimately tell - perhaps late in the game - and the Red Devils will walk away with a reasonably comfortable win, just a point from their eleventh Premier League title.

Wigan Athletic 1-3 Manchester United


Sulmaan Ahmad, Goal.com