Berbatov's treble helps Man United rout Wigan 5-0
Updated: December 26, 2011, 14:10
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MANCHESTER, England(AP) Dimitar Berbatov scored a hat trick as Manchester United muscled its way level with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League with a 5-0 rout of Wigan on Monday.
City still holds the advantage on goal difference, but that lead was cut to five by United's second successive five-goal triumph and its neighbor's 0-0 draw at West Bromwich Albion.
Already leading through Park Ji-sung's early goal, United took maximum advantage of Wigan's Conor Sammon being sent off for fouling Michael Carrick.
On his first league start in three months, Berbatov doubled United's lead before halftime, then scored twice more after the break - either side of Antonio Valencia's goal.
Berbatov had Wayne Rooney to thank for his hat trick after the second-half substitute stepped aside to let him take a 78th-minute penalty following Antolin Alcaraz's foul on Park, which seemed to take place outside the box.
"It was the right game for Dimitar,'' United manager Alex Ferguson said. "I needed his height in terms of set piece play against us and he weighed in with a hat trick.
"We are really pleased for him. It helps his confidence. He has not had the best start to the season in terms of selection because of the options I have, with (Danny) Welbeck, Rooney and (Javier) Hernandez.''
But the victory came at a cost with defender Jonny Evans expected to be out of action for two weeks after he was forced off with a calf injury.
Evans was United's only fit central defender heading into the game and failed to reappear for the second half.
"He has a calf injury and will be out for two weeks,'' United manager Alex Ferguson said. "We have had a nightmare the last few days. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have both been ill. Rio Ferdinand called off yesterday with a back injury and Jonny Evans has come off at halftime. It does put you under pressure.''
Thankfully the injuries came against a Wigan side that had not managed so much as a draw in 13 previous meetings with United.
The opener came after Patrice Evra slalomed his way into the Wigan box, then picked out Park with a neat cutback.
The South Korean had enough space to pick his spot, into the top right corner, well out of Ali Al Habsi's reach.
United continued to create chances at regular intervals, with Nani, Berbatov and Darron Gibson all trying their luck.
Sammon wasted Wigan's best chance, turning onto David Jones' pass but drilling a shot straight at goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard.
The Irishman's day quickly got much worse, and any chance Wigan had disappeared with his red card.
Sammon's arm ended up in Carrick's face, although appeared he was attempting to use it as a barrier to shield a bouncing ball from his opponent. Even Ferguson felt it was "harsh.''
"The red card is a shocking decision,'' Wigan manager Roberto Martinez added. "There was a little bit of a fight, as there was every time the two players went for the ball. None of them should have been a red card. None of them were malicious. There was no intent.
"If you want to show a red card using those standards, do it, then you will end up with six men each. Anyone who has been on a football pitch knows that incident was a normal action.''
United quickly exploited the situation.
Gibson delivered a teasing cross from the right flank, which ended up with Berbatov. Making only his second Premier League start of the season, United's record signing took some time to get the ball under control.
However, he had the strength to hold off Antolin Alcaraz and drilled his shot past Al Habsi.
The goals continued to flow after the break.
Valencia was having a quietly effective game and his prodded pass left Berbatov with enough space and time to smash his shot beyond Al Habsi.
Having fallen so far behind Manchester City in the goal difference stakes, United sensed it was time to start making up some ground.
Valencia drilled his first Premier League goal of the season into the bottom left corner to make it 4-0.
Then, after Park was chopped down in the box by Alcaraz, Rooney let Berbatov finish off his hat trick.