The scoreline may suggest an easy win for United but it was two catastrophic mistakes by referee Phil Dowd that tipped the game in United’s favour.
United had taken the lead through Park Ji-Sung but Wigan were starting to get a foothold in the game. The first refereeing mistake meant Wigan would have a mountain to climb if they were to get anything from the game. Conor Sammon was harshly adjudged to have elbowed Michael Carrick in the face, referee Dowd must have been to only person in the ground to think it was a sending off offence. It was clear to everyone that the contact was a hand not an elbow and that it was accidental.
This incident was in stark contrast to events at the DW Stadium last season when Wigan’s James McCarthy was blatantly elbowed in the face by Wayne Rooney and referee Mark Clattenburg didn’t send off Rooney. It really does seem that the referees find it easier to give the big teams in the Premier League that extra bit of help when they are playing teams like Wigan.
Before the sending off Wigan had been creating chances and Ronnie Stam in particular was getting behind the United back line and putting in some telling crosses, Sammon nearly got on the end of one and the ball zipped dangerously across the six yard box for another. But just before half time United doubled their lead with an excellent finish by Dimitri Berbatov.
Roberto Martinez reshuffled his troops at half time because he knew it would be a difficult second half. He decided to take off midfielder Mo Diame and bring on the offensive Franco Di Santo, clearly hoping that Di Santo and Victor Moses could occupy the United defence and quell the onslaught.
However, both Moses and Di Santo were not retaining the ball well enough and United increased their lead when Berbatov collected a pass from Valencia and fired past Al Habsi.
Valencia then made it 4-0 with a low drive across Al Habsi after a corner was cleared straight to Carrick.
Then came the second major refereeing mistake of the day as Antolin Alcaraz fouled Park Ji-Sung just outside the box and Phil Dowd pointed to the penalty spot. Alcaraz was incredulous, but Dowd wanted five!
The Bulgarian then granted Dowd his wish, while ensuring his own hat-trick.
After the game Dowd went for a glass of champagne with Sir Alex to celebrate.
Well maybe he didn’t. But it does seem as though when playing against the might of Manchester United we also have to endure unequal refereeing that makes it near impossible to get a result.