MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, September 16 – Sir Alex Ferguson saluted Paul Scholes after the veteran Manchester United midfielder marked his 700th appearance for the club with a goal in the 4-0 rout of Wigan at Old Trafford.
With United struggling to break down Wigan’s stubborn defence after Javier Hernandez missed a first-half penalty on Saturday, it was fitting that Scholes broke the deadlock in the second half with a typically predatory effort.
The 37-year-old pounced after Latics goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi could only push a Nani cross into his path and United went on to cruise to victory thanks to further goals from Hernandez, Alexander Buttner and Nick Powell.
Scholes’ goal extended a remarkable record of scoring on landmark appearances for United and Ferguson was quick to pay tribute to the former England star, who came out of retirement in January yet remains the club’s most influential midfielder.
“That is what we always remember about Paul, the way he ghosts into the penalty box,” Ferguson said.
“Obviously as he has got older, he has not been able to do that. He doesn’t need to do that now because we prefer him to play central midfield.
“But now he has scored on his 100th, 300th, 400th, 500th and 700th appearance. It is fantastic.”
Hernandez atoned for his earlier penalty miss when he added a second before debutants Buttner and Powell both found the net.
Dutch left-back Buttner surged past three players to get in position to let fly with a shot that Al Habsi should have kept out.
But there was nothing lucky about former Crewe midfielder Powell’s effort as the 18-year-old belted home from 20 yards.
“Nick Powell is going to be a really good player,” Ferguson said.
“He has a great temperament. He has two feet and is quick. He is a great striker of the ball. For an 18-year-old boy it has been a terrific day.
“Alexander was a little bit rash at times but he has a great engine.
“He is raw and has a lot of rough edges. Hopefully we can develop that and he will be a really good addition for us.”
Meanwhile, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez claimed teams do not receive fair treatment at Old Trafford.
Martinez accused Danny Welbeck of diving to win an early penalty and also claimed the United forward should have been shown a red card, instead of yellow, for a late challenge on Wigan’s Franco di Santo.
The Spaniard expressed his frustration at what he perceives to be unfair treatment handed out to teams visiting Old Trafford by referees, in this case Michael Oliver, the 27-year-old who has been fast-tracked by the FA.
“He dived for the penalty, you will see that,” said Martinez of the fourth minute penalty won by Welbeck after a “challenge” by Al-Habsi.
“And the last challenge by him on Franco was completely reckless. Under the new regulations, you can’t do that.
“I’m not going to argue whether that (regulation) should be in the game or not but, with the laws now, you can’t tackle people like that. The foot was over the ball, it was reckless, dangerous.
“That is a red card, for Wigan Athletic, for Manchester United, for anyone. The referee should give that for both teams.
“I have had three sendings-off in my last two games here. For whatever reason, we don’t seem to be measured in the same manner as the team at home.
“Today’s penalty was as bad a decision as you are going to see. I was angry (at the penalty). You need to be involved in football and you know what he’s trying to do.
“I’m sure, if you see the replay you will understand what I’m trying to say. It was a shocking decision.”