MANCHESTER, England— Veteran midfielder Paul Scholes scored on his 700th appearance for Manchester United before Alexander Buttner and Nick Powell grabbed debut goals in a 4-0 victory over Wigan on Saturday, lifting them to second place in the English Premier League.
All of United’s goals came in the second half, with Scholes’ close-range strike in the 52nd minute — his 163rd for the club — sparking the sluggish hosts into life at Old Trafford.
Mexico striker Javier Hernandez made it 2-0 before Buttner, the Dutch left back, scored from an acute angle and fellow summer signing Powell, a youngster signed from third-tier Crewe Alexandra, marked their first games for United with goals in a third straight league win.
Hernandez had a penalty saved in the fifth minute by Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi after strike partner Danny Welbeck fell theatrically in the area, a tumble heavily criticized by visiting manager Roberto Martinez.
“The decision for the penalty was shocking,” Martinez said. “I am not bothered about the scoreline, I will take responsibility for that, but it is difficult to come to Old Trafford and have a referee who gets affected by the occasion.”
Wigan was comfortable in the first half and could easily have taken the lead when Arouna Kone fluffed a chance with the goal at his mercy. But the visitors were overrun after the break with gaps opening up in their defense as they came forward after Scholes broke the deadlock.
“We had to start all over again after the missed penalty,” United manager Alex Ferguson said. “They slowed the game down a lot, but we weren’t playing at the speed we play at.
“The second half we did after becoming more aggressive and played some penetrating football. Wigan play a system which is difficult to play against. It is a good result.”
On the 37-year-old Scholes, who tapped in after Al-Habsi parried out a cross from Nani, Ferguson added: “That is what we always remember about Paul, the way he ghosts into the penalty box.
“Now he has scored on his 100th, 300th, 400th, 500th and 700th appearance. It is fantastic.”
United started with striker Robin van Persie on the bench, saving the Dutchman’s energy for the Champions League starting next week when Galatasaray come to Old Trafford. Ferguson said left back Patrice Evra missed the match through injury, giving Buttner his first start.