Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Wigan 1 Man United 0

So much for the procession towards title number 20. Manchester United’s eight-point lead was cut to five as relegation-haunted Wigan Athletic produced a stunning win to enhance their hopes of survival and perhaps those of Roberto Mancini as manager at Manchester City.

This was a wobble where and when United least expected it. Sir Alex Ferguson had previously faced Wigan 14 times since their elevation to the Premier League and 14 times he had emerged victorious. This was no time for the sequence to founder due to a fine Wigan performance and a lethargic response from United, who had a blatant penalty appeal overlooked when Maynor Figueroa handled Phil Jones’s cross in the area with 18 minutes remaining but have only themselves to blame for a first league defeat in 13 matches. It is surely no coincidence United’s first loss in the Premier League since 4 January came with Paul Scholes given the night off.

Wigan began impressively and dominated the first half to the obvious disgust of the United manager. They certainly did not resemble a team stranded in the bottom three before kickoff, sulking over their unjust defeat at Chelsea on Saturday and forced to deny reports that their manager will be leaving this summer regardless of their fate in the Premier League relegation struggle. “I will stick with Roberto Martínez for as long as I can,” said Dave Whelan, the Wigan chairman, amid claims the Spaniard will not renew his one-year rolling contract at the DW Stadium. “I have said Roberto will go to one of the big clubs in Europe or the UK. He is a very high-quality manager. He is a gentleman. He is 100% honest and I have great admiration for him.”

Whether Wigan hold match officials in similar esteem is doubtful. Martínez received an apology from Mike Riley, general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials, for Dave Bryan’s failure to spot that both Chelsea goals were offside in the 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge, a reverse that broke a run of four games unbeaten for the Latics. Riley’s intentions were well-intentioned but will be ultimately worthless should Wigan go down as a consequence, and Martínez was left to curse the match officials for a second game in succession when a merited lead was chalked off in controversial circumstances after 29 minutes.

The outstanding Victor Moses rose highest to send a powerful header beyond David de Gea from a Shaun Maloney corner. The DW Stadium erupted, Moses slid to his knees in celebration and the annoying music that drowns out every home goal celebration at Wigan began to assault the ear-drums. No one had spotted that the assistant referee David Richardson had raised his flag the moment Moses’ header hit the net. Only after several television replays was an apparent cause identified, a slight obstruction by Gary Caldwell on the United goalkeeper on the goalline. Harsh in the extreme. Ryan Giggs was still berating his defenders by the time he realised United had been reprieved. The referee, Phil Dowd, jeered before kick-off following his erroneous decision to dismiss Conor Sammon in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford earlier in the season, received a vitriolic reception at half-time.

Few would have disputed the legitimacy of Wigan’s lead had the goal stood. But for two incisive passes into the home area, the first from Ryan Giggs to Javier Hernández, the second from Michael Carrick to Giggs, intercepted by Caldwell and Maynor Figueroa respectively, United threatened little and were second best throughout the first half. Ferguson stalked his technical area like a wounded lion throughout, clearly rehearsing the dressing-room dressing-down he was to deliver during the interval.

It was not that United were completely off-key in front of the watching Glazer brothers, more that Wigan dominated possession, displayed greater energy and gave the visitors no time on the ball whatsoever. At one point Wayne Rooney came off second best in a 50-50 challenge with James McArthur and was subjected to a furious rebuke from his manager.

With Moses given licence to roam across the United defence and Maloney a persistent threat down the left, Martínez’s side took the game to the league leaders from the opening whistle. Carrick covered well to prevent Franco Di Santo meeting an inviting cut-back from Jean Beausejour, De Gea tipped over from James McCarthy’s 20-yard drive and Moses, having flicked the ball nonchalantly over the advancing Jonny Evans, had another shot deflected wide.

Whatever Ferguson said at half-time, it did not work. The United manager introduced Tom Cleverley for the anonymous Ashley Young – the former Wigan loanee given a warm reception by the home crowd – but with Antonio Valencia, another ex-Latic, and the visiting attack kept quiet, the momentum remained with Martínez’s team. They finally established the lead their superior performance deserved five minutes after the restart.

Maloney made a quiet start to life at Wigan after his £850,000 move from Celtic last summer but has been instrumental in the team’s recent improvement. His third goal in 10 games was worthy of any stage.

After exchanging passes with Beausejour at a short corner, which United claimed should not have been given, the Scot cut inside a half-hearted challenge from Wayne Rooney on the edge of the area and curled a wonderful finish beyond De Gea and in off the far post.

There was no reprieve for United on this occasion, although Dowd favoured them once again when Evans scythed down Maloney from behind but escaped his second booking of the nightt. and Moses twice went close late on while Ali Al-Habsi saved well from the United substitute Danny Welbeck.

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