Dimitar Berbatov was in sensational form, scoring a hat-trick in United's 5-0 rout over Wigan on Boxing Day.
The Latics have yet to enjoy any kind of success against their regional rivals, especially at Old Trafford where they have suffered 14 defeats in 14 outings. Things took a turn for the worse when Conor Sammons was given his marching orders 6 minutes before halftime, when referee Phil Dowd adjudged him to have elbowed Michael Carrick while trying to win the ball.
Harsh decision indeed, as it should have been no more than a yellow card, but that shouldn't take anything away from United who have been a good run of form, winning 8 of their last 9 contests. They've also had a +19 goal margin in that span, outscoring their opponents 21-2.
While United are slowly surging forward, the matter of concern remains the mounting injuries, especially to their backline. They had to rely on a makeshift defense again, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans being the latest to see time on the treatment table. With the transfer window in January looming, it seems that Sir Alex Ferguson is intent on staying put, preferring to stick with what he's got right now.
For all the speculation surrounding his future at Old Trafford, Berbatov turned in yet another world-class display, earning the “Man of the Match” honors. He has proven to be quite enigmatic though, as this type of display has been quite rare since hitting the streets in the summer of 2008. Even though he was tied for 1st place in goals scored last season, Berbatov has been relegated to the occasional spot-duty, slipping behind not just Chicharito, but Danny Welbeck as well.
Fergie has spoken highly of Berba's attitude during what has been otherwise a very trying time for the forward. It's not quite often that you'll find a person who goes from leading the league in scoring to riding the bench the next season. In Berba's case though, it's not what he does, but what he often fails to do; showing up in the big games.
While most other players would have demanded a transfer immediately, Berba has opted to stay put and fight for his keep. Hopefully, he can continue in this form as United open the year with some tough fixtures, most of which could be described as "trap games".