Paul Scholes marked his 700th appearance by setting Man Utd on their way to a 4-0 thrashing of Wigan on a day of landmarks at Old Trafford.
Buttner and Powell net on debuts as Wigan fall apart in the second half
Paul Scholes marked his 700th appearance by setting Manchester United on their way to a 4-0 thrashing of Wigan Athletic on a day of landmarks at Old Trafford.
After a slightly low-tempo first half, which saw Javier Hernandez miss an early penalty, United found a ruthless streak in the second period, albeit the hosts were aided by Wigan's disintegrating defence.
Scholes made the breakthrough, while there were also debut goals for Alexander Buttner and Nick Powell as Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand also reached personal milestones for the Red Devils.
United were presented with a golden opportunity to take the lead after just five minutes when Danny Welbeck went to ground too easily under a token challenge from Ali Al Habsi.
However, the Wigan goalkeeper ensured there was no lingering sense of injustice as he proved equal to Hernandez's poorly-struck penalty.
Wigan threatened sporadically on the counter-attack, with Arouna Kone missing a good chance prior to half-time before Al Habsi endured a second half to forget.
Just six minutes after the interval, the Oman international pushed out Nani's teasing low cross straight into the path of Scholes, who will not have scored many easier goals in his 700 United appearances.
Al Habsi was at least not at fault for the second goal on 63 minutes as shoddy defending allowed an unmarked Hernandez to divert Buttner's shot home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Buttner then marked his debut with a goal three minutes later as Wigan somehow failed to stop the left-back's run into the box and Al Habsi compounded the situation by helping the Dutchman's driven effort over the line.
Robin van Persie was unable to convert Hernandez's cut-back before fellow substitute Powell did it make it 4-0 on 82 minutes with a thumping drive from outside the box following more slapdash defending.
Although he declared Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa fit on Friday, Sir Alex 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.
Even with Wayne Rooney missing, the alternative was not too shabby as Hernandez was paired with Danny Welbeck.
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. Hopefully, Welbeck will learn from such incidents and avoid them in future.
The post-script at least was fitting as Al Habsi turned away Hernandez's spot-kick with a smart, low save to his left.
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 North West 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 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 no 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 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 Patrice 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.
|1st Half Goals
|Shots on Target
|Shots off Target
|1st Half Poss.
|2nd Half Poss.