Roberto Martinez is hoping Wigan Athletic can start 2013 on the right note, in a mouth-watering fixture against Manchester United at the DW Stadium.
It’s a match that evokes happy memories for Latics after their 1-0 win against the Red Devils last season, but the Gaffer says a lively crowd is crucial if the team are continue their record against Sir Alex Ferguson’s men:
“Well short-term memory is fantastic,” said Martinez, “but long-term gives you a clearer picture of the test we’re going to face on New Year’s Day.
“Manchester United is one of the best clubs in the world, but we’re looking forward to hosting them at the DW Stadium and in the last few games the atmosphere here has been fantastic and really given us an edge over opponents, so that will have to be repeated if we’re to compete at our best on the day.
“They’re the ones setting the pace in the league after what has been an incredible start to the campaign for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side and we’ll have to be ready for that because we’re still in a precarious position in the table with a points tally that still doesn’t reflect what we’re doing on the pitch.”
Latics were impressive against Aston Villa last time out and cruised to a 3-0 win which Martinez said has given the team a real shot in the arm in terms of confidence, explaining:
“In football you need to get that winning feeling at the end of a good period of work and that was certainly the case against Aston Villa, and if anything we improved massively with our work in both boxes to score three and keep a clean sheet.
“We need to carry on with those standards and make sure they don’t drop in the next ten games at least, a very important period in our season.
“Over the years we’ve been working really hard to set a certain way of playing and introduce certain footballing concepts and it’s fair to say we’re stronger than ever in those departments.
“We’re also mentally very strong which means that it doesn’t matter what our league position is or what run of form we’ve been on, we’ll always play in the same manner which will bring rewards.
“To go to Villa Park in one of the most tense games of our season and be ourselves is an important example to set, and then to complete more passes than anyone else on a weekend that Manchester United played at home to West Bromwich Albion, Arsenal brought Newcastle United to The Emirates and Liverpool looked convincing against Queens Park Rangers tells you a lot about how far we’ve come as a group.”
The Gaffer says he has no new injury worries ahead of the first game of the year, and that he expects more players to return to match fitness very soon:
“Everyone came through the game well, there were one or two knocks but nothing that will threaten the options for our next game.
“Ivan Ramis got through the 90 minutes together with Gary Caldwell who have both had their troubles in recent weeks, so that was very good news and everyone else who was in the Aston Villa squad will be fit for Manchester United.
“Antolin Alcaraz is progressing very well together with Ryo Miyaichi and they’re not far away from a return now, but this weekend will be too soon for them to be involved in a league game but they could be ready for our FA Cup tie against Bournemouth at the weekend.
“Compared to where we were three weeks ago things are looking very positive, with the likes of Albert Crusat, Adrian Lopez and Ben Watson further away from a return but progressing well and hoping for a bit more luck in 2013.”