Manchester United were forced to come from behind to see off Wigan Athletic in the lunchtime kick-off at the JJB Stadium.
Leighton Baines' spectacular striker had given the Latics an early lead but Nemanja Vidic's first United goal, Louis Saha's fine finish and then a late effort from man-of-the-match Ole Gunnar Solskjaer meant United consolidated their position at the top of the Barclays Premiership.
United were without Cristiano Ronaldo and Gary Neville after picking up ankle and calf injuries respectively on international duty, so Wes Brown lined up at right-back and Solskjaer on the right wing in a 4-5-1 formation that saw Wayne Rooney start on the left-hand side.
However, it was the home side who took the lead inside the first five minutes.
Patrice Evra was penalised for handball, Paul Scharner tapped the resulting free-kick to Kevin Kilbane and Leighton Baines followed up his spectacular strike for England Under-21's with a similarly ferocious drive from 30 yards that left keeper Edwin van der Sar no chance on its way into the top corner.
Denny Landzaat then hit another well-worked free-kick over the bar and Arjen de Zeeuw headed wide at the back post from Gary Teale's inviting cross as Wigan continued to press back their illustrious visitors.
However, United were beginning to get into their stride, and a neat turn and run from Solskjaer created half a chance for Rooney but Chris Kirkland got down well.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side were by now zipping the ball around with authority as they continued to probe a Wigan defence that was so far proving resolute but with 24 minutes gone, Rooney nearly conjured an equaliser out of nothing.
Questions have been asked about the young striker's form in recent weeks but he showed all of his usual poise in taking Evra's cross on his chest in the area, turning the Wigan defence inside out before seeing a powerful shot crash back off the bar with keeper Kirkland well beaten.
Rio Ferdinand picked up the first caution of the day after clattering Emile Heskey before Solskjaer was set free down the right and his low cross found Saha, but the France striker was crowded out at the near post.
Wigan then nearly hit United on the break after 38 minutes as Emmerson Boyce ran into acres of space down the right but his teasing cross eluded Heskey and was just too strong for Scharner to turn in at the far post.
John O'Shea found himself in the book for bringing down Baines in full-flight and Evra nearly emulated the Latics defender two minutes before the break when a well worked United move allowed the full-back to stride into space on the left and hit a dipping shot that Kirkland did well to parry.
Ferguson brought on Ryan Giggs for Brown at the break in a bid to inject more pace and drive into United's attack and Solskjaer fashioned a good opening seconds after the restart, jinking past a couple of defenders in the Wigan area but then smashed his shot high over the bar.
There was then an almighty scramble in the Latics box but Saha could not apply the finishing touch before he spurned a golden opportunity to draw United level.
Rooney hit a sublime ball with the outside of his right boot from the left wing which Saha killed instantly on the edge of the area.
With Wigan defenders closing in, the striker produced a cute trick to create a yard of space but then dragged his shot wide of Kirkland's right-hand post.
However, United finally capitalised on their dominance on the hour mark as Nemanja Vidic rose highest to meet Giggs' inswinging corner and powered a header past Kirkland from six yards out for his first United goal.
Five minutes later they were in front. Rooney was the provider as his clipped ball into the box was brilliantly brought down by an airborne Saha before drilling a shot past Kirkland and in off the far post.
Wigan were finding it hard going as United looked to close the game out and substitute Lee McCulloch's shot on the turn was easily held by Van der Sar.
Michael Carrick played in Rooney on the right hand side of the area but the striker's attempted chip ballooned over the bar before Kirkland denied Saha with his legs after Giggs had won the ball and played him in.
Rooney broke free in the box but his cutback was just behind the onrushing Solskjaer as United threatened a late third, which eventually came from the Norwegian in injury time as he latched onto Rooney's flick, held off Baines and drove a low shot into the bottom corner.
Goal Scorers & Times:
WIGAN ATHLETIC 5' L Baines
MANCHESTER UNITED 62' N Vidic
MANCHESTER UNITED 66' L Saha
MANCHESTER UNITED 90' O Solskjaer
Half Time Score:
1 - 0
Cautions / Yellow cards:
MANCHESTER UNITED 28' R Ferdinand Yellow Unsporting behaviour
MANCHESTER UNITED 40' J O'Shea Yellow Unsporting behaviour
MANCHESTER UNITED 45' Off:W Brown On: R Giggs
WIGAN ATHLETIC 60' Off:H Camara On: L McCulloch
WIGAN ATHLETIC 69' Off:K Kilbane On: S Todorov
WIGAN ATHLETIC 69' Off:G Teale On: A Valencia
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