United stutter to throw title race back open; Wigan Athletic 1 Manchester United 0
United continued their hunt for a 20th league title with a trip to nearby Wigan, as the reds looked to maintain their 8 point lead at the top of the premier league. With Wigan struggling near the foot of the table, and United having beaten the Latics in every meeting since their promotion, the omens were good for another positive step in the direction of the title. Roberto Martinez’s side however were enjoying a good run of form, having recently seen off Liverpool at Anfield, and being unfortunate to not come away with points at Stamford Bridge last weekend, creating the sense that an upset could be in the offing.
Unlike the recent games against Blackburn and QPR, United found themselves on the back foot from the off, as the hosts made an encouraging start with the attractive brand of football Martinez instils into his sides. Fergie patrolled the touchline voicing his discontent at the lethargy in the United performance, but there was little which would have improved his mood in a torrid opening 30 minutes for the reds. Wigan looked to have got a deserved opener on 29 minutes, as the impressive Moses leapt highest in the United penalty area to nod home Maloney’s corner. An infringement on David De Gea in the 6 yard area, spotted by the linesman denied the home side however, and handed United a huge let off. Instead of serving as a warning to United, Wigan seemed to be boosted by a sense of injustice at their disallowed goal, keeping the reds on the back foot and setting up an inevitable Ferguson hairdryer treatment at half time.
United’s second half response was barely fit for a side looking to secure a 20th league title, as Wigan continued their unrelenting high pressure upon United’s defence and midfield. A poor night was capped when on 50 minutes, a short corner found Shaun Maloney on the edge of the box, and the former Celtic midfielder curled in an unstoppable right foot shot to throw the title race wide open. The unceremonious removal of Wayne Rooney, who had endured an anonymous evening, summed up a torrid night for United, who’s frustration only grew when they were seemingly denied a clear penalty, after Moses looked to have handled Phil Jones’ cross. Danny Welbeck’s introduction bore some fruit for the champions, finally getting the reds first shot on target with 10 minutes left on the clock, with United beginning to assert some pressure in the Wigan half. A lopsided and mismatched United formation never looked like finding an equalise though, and the reds crash to their first defeat since January, putting any premature title celebrations firmly on ice.
DDG – 6 Helpless for Wigan goal.
Jones – 5 Looks to have run out of steam this season.
Evans – 6 Fortunate to not have been sent off.
Ferdinand – 6 Given very uncomfortable evening by Moses.
Evra – 5 Lucky to have gotten away with struck off Wigan goal.
Valencia – 6 Failed to get the service to make impact.
Carrick – 5 Out fought and out thought in the middle.
Giggs – 3 Wretched performance.
Young – 4 Closed down and had no answers.
Rooney – 5 Late substitution summed up a poor evening.
Hernandez – 3 Couldn’t provide any sort of base for United attacks.
Welbeck – 6 Only player to test Al Habsi.
Cleverley – 6 Made a positive impact, should have been used through the middle.
Nani – 6 Willing runner and threat in the final minutes.