Manch­ester United ease past Wi­gan Ath­letic in the FA Cup.

Manch­ester United look oddly like a Van Gaal ver­sion rather than a Mour­inho model as they see off Wi­gan Ath­letic,

The National - News - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - writes Richard Jolly from Old Traf­ford sports@then­ational.ae

Some­where, per­haps in the Por­tuguese villa he calls “par­adise”, Louis van Gaal may have watched on and con­sid­ered him­self vin­di­cated.

Much as Jose Mour­inho po­si­tions him­self as the an­tithe­sis of his pre­de­ces­sor and tries to rep­re­sent a break from Manch­ester United’s re­cent past, there was a dis­tinct flavour of the Dutch­man about this.

Con­sider three of the four scor­ers against Wi­gan Ath­letic last night.

Marouane Fel­laini, Van Gaal’s un­gainly main­stay who sym­bol­ised the di­rect­ness he used as an al­ter­na­tive to side­ways pass­ing, headed United into the lead.

Chris Smalling, in­stalled as the premier cen­tre-back by the end of his reign, added the sec­ond.

Bas­tian Sch­we­in­steiger, an ally of Van Gaal’s from their days at Bay­ern Mu­nich, came out of hi­ber­na­tion to make his first start for 385 days and ended with a goal and an as­sist, in the process dou­bling each tally in his pre­vi­ous 33 club games.

The third goal may have been scored by Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan, a Mour­inho sign­ing, but it was set up by An­thony Mar­tial, Van Gaal’s big­gest buy and one of a hand­ful, with Da­ley Blind, Smalling and Fel­laini, who de­liv­ered more for the Dutch­man than the Por­tuguese.

Mour­inho has been pub­lic in his crit­i­cism of the French­man and may con­sider his pol­icy of tough love jus­ti­fied.

The al­ter­na­tive in­ter­pre­ta­tion is to won­der why Mar­tial has not been in­volved more when he is ca­pa­ble of such scin­til­lat­ing form.

Af­ter a false start, when he be­gan poorly as a striker, he ex­celled in the hour he spent on the left wing, cre­at­ing two goals, start­ing the move that cul­mi­nated in Mkhi­taryan shoot­ing wide, dis­play­ing sheer speed as a solo run­ner and, when Smalling dou­bled United’s ad­van­tage, a del­i­cacy of cross.

The even­tual score­line was harsh on Wi­gan, but as they have lost on all nine trips to Old Traf­ford by an ag­gre­gate score of 32-1, they are ac­cus­tomed to dis­ap­point­ment here. The 2013 FA Cup win­ners were elim­i­nated by the hold­ers and whereas oth­ers have stum­bled, United, with suc­ces­sive 4-0 wins, have ad­vanced with the min­i­mum of fuss.

They were able to run riot de­spite a slow start.

“The first half was not good,” Mour­inho said.

Fel­laini and Sch­we­in­steiger’s mid­field part­ner­ship seemed to bring back un­wanted mem­o­ries of the pon­der­ous­ness of the pass­ing un­der Van Gaal. Then the Ger­man bent in a deep cross, the Bel­gian climbed above Cal­lum Con­nolly at the far post and the com­plex­ion of the game changed.

Af­ter Smalling struck, there was more of Mour­inho about the swift counter-at­tack that yielded the third, Mkhi­taryan and Mar­tial swap­ping passes as they sped into the penalty box for the Ar­me­nian to fin­ish. Sch­we­in­steiger added a fourth with an un­gainly over­head kick, hook­ing the ball in as he fell.

His sec­ond United goal was a re­ward for the pro­fes­sion­al­ism he demon­strated when he was de­moted to train with the re­serves.

An­other sign of the re­nais­sance in his fu­ture beck­ons. “He is stay­ing,” Mour­inho said. “He is go­ing into the Europa League [squad] list be­cause we open spaces with [Mem­phis] De­pay and [Mor­gan] Sch­nei­der­lin go­ing.

“With so many games, he will be an op­tion.”

Yet if it sounded a tri­umphant re­turn, there was lit­tle in the Ger­man’s other­wise slug­gish per­for­mance to sug­gest he will be any­thing other than a backup in the Premier League. Mour­inho de­flected ques­tions about Wayne Rooney, who started but was de­moted to a sub­plot by the scor­ers around him and who could re­port­edly in­crease his al­ready ex­tor­tion­ate wages in China, by say­ing the only player likely to leave this month is Ash­ley Young.

“I would love to keep him,” Mour­inho said. Young was an­other Van Gaal favourite. Of­ten shunted into the sid­ings by Mour­inho, they were ubiq­ui­tous yes­ter­day.

The even­tual score­line was harsh on Wi­gan. The 2013 FA Cup win­ners were elim­i­nated by hold­ers United

Ja­son Cairnduff / Reuters

Marouane Fel­laini, left, opened the scor­ing for Manch­ester United as they rolled to a 4-0 win over Wi­gan Ath­letic.

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