Evans facing a fortnight out

Evans was United’s only fit central defender heading into the game

and failed to reappear for the second half as Dimitar Berbatov

bagged a hat-trick. And Ferguson confirmed the Northern Ireland

defender will not make the New Year’s Eve encounter with Blackburn.

“Jonny came off injured. He has a calf injury and will be out for

two weeks,” Ferguson told BBC Radio Five Live. “We have had a

nightmare the last few days. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have

both been ill. Rio Ferdinand called off yesterday with a back

injury and Jonny Evans has come off at half-time. “It does put you

under pressure.” Ferguson is hoping Jones and Smalling will have

recovered from their problems before the Blackburn game, although

with a trip to Newcastle to follow and then the blockbuster FA Cup

third round tie with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on

January 8, it is the wrong time to be affected by an area of the

pitch from which skipper Nemanja Vidic will be missing for the rest

of the season. It is the one cloud on a very healthy festive period

for United so far. The Red Devils’ second successive five-goal win

allowed them to move level on points with neighbours Manchester

City, and slice the Blues’ goal difference advantage in half.

However, the game turned on Connor Sammon’s red card when United

were just a goal ahead towards the end of the first half. Sammon

stuck out his arm to try and shield possession, caught Michael

Carrick in the face and Phil Dowd promptly sent him off. “The red

card is a shocking decision,” said Wigan boss Roberto Martinez.

“There was a little bit of a fight, as there was every time the two

players went for the ball. None of them should have been a red

card. None of them were malicious. There was no intent. “If you

want to show a red card using those standards, do it, then you will

end up with six men each. “Anyone who has been on a football pitch

knows that incident was a normal action. “I was surprised when he

gave the free-kick. To see the red card, I was gobsmacked.” Even

Ferguson admitted it was “harsh”. However, his side took full

advantage. Park Ji-sung had already put the hosts in front and

within two minutes of Sammon’s exit, Berbatov added another, by

using tactics Martinez felt were similar to that his own side were

punished for. United cut loose after the interval, with Berbatov

adding another followed by an effort from former Wigan man Antonio

Valencia. Making only his second Premier League start of the

season, Berbatov wrapped things up with a penalty after Wayne

Rooney had stood aside following Antolin Alcaraz’s foul on Park,

which seemed to take place outside the box. “It was the right game

for Dimitar,” said Ferguson. “I needed his height in terms of

set-piece play against us and he weighed in with a hat-trick. “We

are really pleased for him. It helps his confidence. He has not had

the best start to the season in terms of selection because of the

options I have, with (Danny) Welbeck, Rooney and (Javier)

Hernandez.” Ferguson will receive the perfect 70th birthday present

of a place on top of the Premier League if his side beat Blackburn

at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve, 24 hours before Manchester City

visit Sunderland. However, Martinez feels Roberto Mancini’s men

face a far more considerable test of their mettle over the next few

months. “What Manchester United have is that mentality,” said the

Wigan chief. “They adapt to adversity. You can see everyone taking

responsibility and using that to get a result. “That is the biggest

strength they have had for 25 years. “That is why any team that

wants to win the league, beyond any sort of money, or any sort of

players you want to bring in, need to beat Manchester United

mentally. That is the biggest battle.”