WIGAN, England (AP) – Two goals apiece from strikers Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez gave Manchester United a routine 4-0 victory over Wigan at the DW Stadium on Tuesday that maintained the visitors' seven-point lead in the English Premier League.
Hernandez opened the scoring in the 35th minute with a strike from close range before van Persie doubled the advantage eight minutes later.
Hernandez added his second in the 63rd and Van Persie matched the Mexico international in the 88th when he closed out the scoring.
Van Persie's brace moves him to 64 goals in 76 league games since January 2011. His 18th goal of the season was one of his best, calmly stepping inside Ivan Ramis before firing into the corner with his supposedly weaker right foot. And as he tapped Danny Welbeck's square ball into an empty net in stoppage time, Van Persie extended his recent record to eight goals in his last eight games.
United's failure to get to grips with Wigan's three-man defence in the corresponding fixture last term that condemned them to a defeat, which triggered the downward spiral that cost them the title last season.
And they were in no mood to be similarly exposed this time around.
United manager Alex Ferguson filled his midfield, denying Roberto Martinez's men the space to implement their preferred passing game.
The Latics were forced into far more long balls than normal and though the first 25 minutes lacked penalty-box action, slowly United were draining the life out of their opponents.
And when Jonny Evans nipped in front of Arouna Kone to intercept Gary Caldwell's poorly-hit clearance, the Northern Irishman advanced far enough to divert Tom Cleverley's square ball into the path of Patrice Evra.
After an air shot, Evra let fly with a low stinger that Al Habsi could not hold, allowing Hernandez to pounce from close range.
It was the Mexican's 11th goal of the season and his 30th overall in the Premier League for United. Remarkably, all 30 have come from inside the area.
With the visitors now turning the screw, Wigan desperately needed to reach the interval without conceding again.
But Van Persie ensured they did not make it.
After a mix-up in midfield gifted United possession deep inside the Wigan half, the hosts could not afford Ramis' slip, which allowed Van Persie a couple of extra seconds to decide what to do with Hernandez's pass.
Ramis recovered his ground, only for Van Persie to step inside the defender and find the far corner with a right-footed effort of unerring accuracy.
Other than a close offside call that went against Kone, who tapped home Franco di Santo's low cross, the visitors were completely dominant.
No one could begrudge them their third, just after the hour, when Van Persie's free kick deflected into Hernandez's path. The striker was once again in the box to deliver the first-time finish.
And fittingly it was Van Persie who had the last word two minutes from time.
The win gives United a seven-point cushion over defending champions and Manchester rivals City. Wigan drops to 17th.