United suffer 2-0 defeat at Elland Road...

UNITED 0, WIGAN 2 (Cooper og 11, McClean 83).

United: Silvestri, Byram, Bellusci, Cooper, Warnock, Tonge, Bianchi (Morison 46), Mowatt (Austin 46), Cook, Antenucci, Sharp (Doukara 70). Subs. S Taylor, Berardi, Pearce, Montenegro, Doukara.

Wigan: Carson, Tavernier, Taylor, Ramis, McCann, Watson, McClean, Cowie, Perch, Kiernan, Fortune (Espinoza 70). Subs. Al Habsi, Riera, Maloney, McManaman, Boyce, Forshaw.

Referee: N Miller

Booked: Bellusci (United), McClean (Wigan).

Att: 28,375 (783 Wigan)

The Boxing Day visit of Wigan Athletic saw Neil Redfearn make two changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Nottingham Forest as Giuseppe Bellusci and Michael Tonge returned in place of Jason Pearce and Adryan respectively. 

United enjoyed a good spell of possession inside the early stages, but it was the visitors who found themselves in front on 11 minutes as Liam Cooper inadvertently chested James McClean’s left-wing cross beyond Marco Silvestri.

Captain Stephen Warnock then smashed over a half-volley after being found at the back post, while Chris McCann headed over for Wigan at the opposite end in an otherwise subdued passage of play following the opening goal.

That was until the 28th minute when the game showed signs of sparking back into life. Mirco Antenucci toyed with his marker down United’s left before teeing an inch-perfect cross up for Sharp to loop a header against Scott Carson’s crossbar, with the Wigan keeper well-beaten.

Marc-Antoine Fortune dragged wide from distance before United broke away at speed, but Antenucci could only find the arms of Carson as he drilled a low cross from the left in search of Billy Sharp.

Tommaso Bianchi then curled wide from the edge of the box before Sharp lashed a dipping half-volley away from Carson’s post, while Silvestri had to be alert to deny Fortune’s strike with his legs as Wigan took their one-goal lead into half-time.

Redfearn made two changes at the break, Rodolph Austin and Steve Morison replacing Alex Mowatt and Bianchi respectively as his side attacked the Kop in search of an equaliser.

Rob Kiernan threatened for Wigan, curling wide from the edge of the box before United started to apply some serious pressure upon Carson’s goal. First, Antenucci saw his effort deflected behind after a superb run by Cook, before Bellusci tested Carson’s reflexes from range, forcing the former United stopper to tip his strike over the bar.

Carson clutched Cook’s effort from distance and was equal to Austin’s attempt after a surging run forward, while Bellusci hacked clear after Silvestri had palmed away McClean’s shot on the turn.

Redfearn’s final change of the afternoon saw him swap Sharp for Souleymane Doukara in attack as United continued to probe - Michael Tonge being denied by a last-ditch James Perch block as he looked to surge into the area. Silvestri stood firm to block McClean’s strike with his legs before another United onslaught ensued.

But Carson was again equal to United’s advances, tipping over Morison’s dipping header with a fine reflex save before Byram blazed a corner high over the bar and Austin’s volley bobbled wide as Redfearn urged his men forward.

However, it meant gaps were appearing at the back which Wigan looked to exploit, and although substitute Roger Espinoza was unable to take advantage after racing through, McClean could as he latched onto Don Cowie’s through ball to slam past Silvestri and seal the three points.