Wigan Athletic have their own Lionel Messi in the form of Shaun Maloney who has turned on the style in recent weeks. The former Celtic and Aston Villa midfielder caused the visitors plenty of problems and was instrumental in helping Wigan to their first ever win over the Red Devils in the Premier League. Maloney wreaked havoc in the United defence and thoroughly deserved his 49th-minute goal. The 29-year-old received the ball from a well-worked short corner and glided past two United tackles before curling a delightful effort into the top-right corner. He was substituted in the dying minutes of the game – and he will be vital in the coming weeks as the Latics look to perform another great escape.
Ryan Giggs said on Tuesday that United aren’t celebrating a 20th league title just yet – and a dramatic 90 minutes at the DW Stadium leaves the door ajar for Manchester City, who are now five points behind their bitter rivals following their victory over West Brom. The Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium on 30 April could well prove to be the decisive game in the title race. City have their swagger back, while Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to substitute Wayne Rooney in the 64th minute will not have helped United’s confidence. The race for the title has already seen many twists and turns this season, and it remains to be seen who will be on top when the two sides meet at Eastlands in three weeks’ time.
Wigan betrayed their league position with a tenacious display against the defending champions. Martínez has called on all his managerial expertise to get Wigan on a run of form which has seen the Latics lose once in six games. Their season looked in the doldrums as so often happens with this Wigan side but week by week they have gained confidence, and beating Liverpool and Stoke City provided a much-needed injection of confidence which will be further boosted with victory over United. Wednesday night’s win will have been extremely satisfying for the league’s youngest manager, who finally outwitted Britain’s most successful boss – to produce such an accomplished performance can only serve to help Wigan in their battle for survival.
If Wigan had failed to secure three points against the Red Devils then the performance of referee Phil Dowd and his assistant Dave Richardson would have been ferociously scrutinised by the Latics. In the 29th minute, Wigan were the victims of a poor refereeing decision, when Gary Caldwell was adjudged to have fouled David De Gea for what looked a perfectly legitimate goal by the defender. Dowd ruled out Caldwell’s opener and it appeared Martínez would have to wait until after the final whistle to get an aplology from the referee. But all was forgiven after half-time when the Latics were the beneficiaries of two lapses from the officials. Jean Beausejour deflected the ball out of play for a United goal-kick but Dowd signalled for a Wigan corner to Phil Jones’ amazement. The United defender became embroiled in another refereeing controversy when the 20-year-old was left enraged as the officials failed to spot Maynor Figueroa’s handball in the Wigan area.
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