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Page last updated at 22:00 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Man Utd 1-0 Wigan

By Phil McNulty

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney is congratulated after putting Man Utd ahead

Manchester United closed the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool to two points - with a game in hand - as they struggled to victory against Wigan.

Wayne Rooney slid in Cristiano Ronaldo's cross in the first minute, but limped off with a hamstring injury five minutes later.

Substitute Carlos Tevez then missed United's best chance after rounding Latics keeper Chris Kirkland.

Wigan had plenty of possession but could not carve out any clear chances.

United were not at their most impressive, but manager Sir Alex Ferguson will simply be delighted to have built on the 3-0 win against title rivals Chelsea with another vital three points to move into second place in the table.

And United's defence stretched their impressive recent record to nine league games without conceding a goal.


Wigan, for their part, performed creditably after going behind so early on, confirming their development under Steve Bruce.

Ferguson made five changes from the side that beat Chelsea so comfortably on Sunday - and they carried on where they had left off by taking the lead inside a minute.

Newly crowned Fifa World Player of the Year for 2008 Ronaldo escaped down the right flank, and his cross was the perfect invitation for Rooney to steer in the simplest of finishes from close range.

It was Rooney's last meaningful action as he fell victim with a hamstring strain five minutes later and limped off, to be replaced Tevez.

Phelan praises United's character

And the Argentine should have doubled United's lead after 25 minutes. He was sent clear by John O'Shea's clearance, but his touch let him down as he rounded Kirkland and the chance was lost.

Wigan were barely seen as an attacking force, and it took a brave challenge from Mario Melchiot to block Paul Scholes's goal-bound drive.

The visitors' only clear opening came four minutes before the interval, when Ryan Taylor shot wildly off target after finding space in the United area.

The visitors needed to increase the tempo after the break, but they only succeeded in picking up three yellow cards in quick succession.

Titus Bramble and Paul Scharner were booked for fouls on Dimitar Berbatov and Tevez, while Amr Zaki was cautioned for breaking too soon from a defensive wall.

Wigan then enjoyed their first sustained spell of pressure, with United forced to defend and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar saving well from Maynor Figueroa's volley - a threat caused by his own poor throw.

Bruce happy with Wigan's performance

The home side's display had been strangely lacklustre in the second half, and Wigan were being given plenty of encouragement in their belief that they could fashion an equaliser.

Bruce's side almost drew level with nine minutes left when Antonio Valencia's fierce rising drive flew just inches over.

Berbatov almost provided the hosts with the breathing space they badly needed, curling a 20-yard effort narrowly wide with the outside of his foot.

Wigan ended the game in United territory, but never seriously threatened to snatch and equaliser and deprive the champions of victory.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Rafael Da Silva, Vidic, Evans, O'Shea, Ronaldo, Scholes (Fletcher 85), Carrick, Nani (Anderson 59), Berbatov, Rooney (Tevez 8).
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Neville, Park, Welbeck.

Goals: Rooney 1.

Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner, Bramble, Figueroa, Valencia, Cattermole (Kapo 88), Palacios, Taylor (De Ridder 81), Zaki (Camara 75), Heskey.
Subs Not Used: Kingson, Edman, Brown, Boyce.

Booked: Bramble, Scharner, Zaki.

Att: 73,917

Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo with 7.24 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Wednesday's football photos
14 Jan 09 |  Football

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