x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Ferguson says Wigan will stay up in EPL relegation battle

Round-up: Martinez's boys have momentum on their side, while Gibbs is out for four weeks for Arsenal.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, does not expect to see Wigan in the Premier League's relegation zone in May.

After avoiding the drop on the final day of last season, Roberto Martinez's side were among the favourites for relegation this term.

A run of eight successive defeats dropped them to the foot of the table, merely strengthening the theory the Latics were not good enough to stay up.

However, since then, Wigan have improved dramatically.

They collected seven points from four games immediately prior to a tough run of fixtures that began with home games against Chelsea and Liverpool before the Boxing Day trip to Old Trafford.

The first two fixtures brought fully merited draws.

And while it would be a major surprise if they earned the first Premier League point against United in their history, Ferguson is certain they will eventually ease their way clear of trouble.

"Wigan will stay up," said Ferguson. "I would not put them as one of my relegation teams.

"Every year they dig out results no one would expect of them, particularly against the bigger teams.

"Last year they lost 6-0 at home to Chelsea. This year they played excellent football and could have won the game."

Recruited from Swansea in 2009 on the back of the free-flowing style that brought promotion to the south Wales outfit in his second season as manager, Martinez has remained loyal to his footballing principles, despite experiencing some very difficult periods.

"Wigan were terrific against Chelsea," said Ferguson.

"Their possession was really good. It says a lot for the philosophy of their manager that they continue to play good football irrespective of what position of the league they are.

"We have a good record against Wigan but we are not taking it for granted."

Arsenal's defensive crisis has deepened with the news that defender Kieran Gibbs has undergone surgery and will be out for four weeks.

Gibbs has been out of action since October after having surgery to remove a hernia, but it had been hoped he would be back for this week's game against Aston Villa.

The England full-back suffered a setback, however. "Kieran Gibbs has had surgery on his left groin and he will be out for a month," manager Arsene Wenger said ahead of Monday's clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Defenders Johan Djourou, Andre Santos, Carl Jenkinson and Bacary Sagna are already out for the Gunners.

Wenger said of Gibbs' injury: "It was a blow, but first what is important is if he cannot play you have to make the decision that we had to make yesterday and have surgery for him.

"Hopefully it will only be one month because Santos will not come back before March."

Neil Warnock, the QPR manager, has rejected the notion that racism is an inherent problem in English football.

Earlier this week, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was handed an eight-game ban and fined £40,000 (Dh 230,380) by the Football Association for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

The following day it was revealed that Chelsea's John Terry is to be charged with racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, something the England captain has strenuously denied.

When asked whether there was a wider problem with racism in English football. "I think it is minimal, I do honestly," he said. "Look around the world and see what happens in Spain, Holland and all these other places.

"There would be an outcry in England if things that happen in those countries were allowed to happen and things were said without action. I think it is absolutely [horrendous].

"And then Fifa [or governing bodies] get complaints about racist comments and the clubs get fined £12,000. Why bother?

"If people are chanting racist obscenities I think they should get banned for life or banned for a season. And you shouldn't fine clubs £12,000, you should stop the fans coming in the next game.

"You have got to punish them to punish them, not just make it look like you are for the sake of it."