Paul Scholes scores in 700th Man U game
Paul Scholes marked his 700th Manchester United appearance by sending the Red Devils to their biggest win of the season in a 4-0 victory over Wigan at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson described Scholes' cameo at Southampton last month as like someone "opening a door."
Saturday, the veteran midfielder did not just open it. He sent it crashing off its hinges.
Mixing a typically astute performance with some of those thunderous challengers for which he is noted, Scholes also broke the deadlock with his 155th United goal.
Few could have been converted in such ease as he tapped home after Ali Al Habsi had pushed Nani's low cross straight into his path.
Javier Hernandez, who missed a first-half penalty, bagged a second when he turned home Alexander Buttner's misdirected shot, then the Dutchman capped a fine debut by driving home the hosts' third, putting more pressure on an underperforming Patrice Evra, who watched from the stand.
Although he declared van Persie and Shinji Kagawa fit yesterday, Ferguson opted to leave both men on the bench as he cast an eye towards the start of his side's Champions League campaign against Galatasaray on Wednesday.
Praised for his performances at Euro 2012 and again for England against Ukraine in midweek, Welbeck is a player of immense potential.
It was sad, therefore, to see what he did after just three minutes.
Charging into the Wigan box, Welbeck was greeted by Al Habsi, who quickly decided to pull out of his challenge, wisely deeming it to be unsafe.
Welbeck went down anyway. And referee Michael Oliver bought it.
The postscript at least was fitting as Al Habsi turned away Hernandez's spot-kick with a smart, low save to his left.
Initially, United made light of its setback.
With veteran duo Ryan Giggs -- making his 600th Premier League appearance -- and Scholes flitting in and out of the game and Buttner looking dangerous on his debut, the hosts carved out a succession of opportunities.
Welbeck flashed a volley wide from Nani's cross before having a shot deflected wide by Gary Caldwell.
Scholes, after robbing Shaun Maloney with a thunderous tackle, also had a piledriver blocked as the pressure intensified.
After Welbeck had headed over, Hernandez and Giggs combined to send Nani clear but the Portugal wide-man, whose United future is in doubt, sent a delicate chip sailing harmlessly over the bar.
Surviving so many scares gave Wigan added belief.
A team who until April had never even taken a point off their northwest neighbours, Wigan should have gone in front when Jean Beausejour floated a cross to the far post.
When Rio Ferdinand, who was celebrating his own milestone -- 400 United games -- missed it, at the very least Arouna Kone should have tested Anders Lindegaard, who had been preferred in goal to David de Gea.
The moment was too much for Kone though and as he jabbed at the ball with the underneath of his boot, he could only send it rolling wide.
Kone stooped to send a header over immediately after the restart, leading to a sense of agitation amongst the home support.
Not for the first time, Scholes settled the nerves.
At 37, he may not longer be capable of those old midfield bursts. However, his sense of timing remains impeccable.
If anyone doubts Michael Carrick's abilities, they would have been answered by a brilliant pass through the Wigan defence for Nani, who, in an all-too-infrequent example of striker-friendly crossing, drove the ball straight at the visitors' goal.
Al Habsi had to do something.
Unfortunately for the Omani, he could only push the ball out to Scholes, who had sauntered in unnoticed and, from four yards, could not miss.
Wigan clung on for a little while longer but when Giggs teed up Buttner, Hernandez was able to turn the Dutchman's misdirected shot home thanks to Emmerson Boyce's failure to move up as Wigan tried to play offside.
Buttner was not finished either.
With Evra looking down from the stands, the Dutchman forced his way past Boyce and James McCarthy before driving a shot from the tightest of angles, which flew in off Al Habsi.
Powell made a remarkable first contribution for United when he latched onto a loose ball and drove home eight minutes from time.