WIGAN, ENGLAND - APRIL 11: Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Manchester United at the DW Stadium on April 11, 2012 in Wigan, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
In Manchester United's second game in three days, Sir Alex Ferguson's side featured only 3 changes from the one that defeated QPR on the weekend. The Red Devils played as if they expected a game Wigan squad to roll over and capitulate. However, Roberto Martinez's men dictated the opening 10 minutes and kept United pinned in their defensive third throughout the stretch.
Eventually, United appeared to grab hold of the game and create some half chances. The best of these chances fell to Javier Hernandez on the right side of the box who took a touch onto his left foot and was dispossessed by a last ditch challenge just as he squared to shoot. This would prove to be the only real opportunity for the Red Devils in the half as Wigan got back on the front foot for the rest of the half.
In what has been the story of the last week, the referees had a major influence on precedings at the DW Stadium around the 30 mion mark. Wigan won a corner on the left that was whipped in right at the edge of the six yard box. Victor Moses slipped Patrice Evra and coolly finished completely unmarked. The linesman, however, flagged for a foul on the goal line for obstructing David de Gea. Replays showed definite contact but in my opinion de Gea should have been able to get through the Wigan player. Instead he chose to absorb the contact without making the effort to get to the ball. This illustrates the one part of de Gea's game that needs some serious work.
Manchester United will have felt relieved to get to the locker room still square at 0-0 despite allowing 9 shots and conceding 55% of possession in the first half.
The second half started just as the first, with Wigan completely overrunning the midfield and bossing the game despite Sir Alex hauling off Ashley Young for Tom Cleverley. This was the first in a string of substitutions that many fans will the need to question. With United obviously going to a 4-3-3, why remove the fluid Young and leave Valencia on the pitch when he is so limited in that formation?
The breakthrough came just five after the break and was due to mental lapses by three different players. Wigan's man of the match, Shaun Maloney, received the ball from a short corner and strolled past Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, and Jonny Evans(I believe) on the edge of the box before firing in a shot far post that David de Gea had no chance at.
Following the goal Manchester United upped the pressure and began playing with the urgency that had missing all game. Danny Welbeck came on for Chicharito and provided another option willing to drop deep and pick up the ball. Antonio Valencia and Phil Jones started to find the space that had been lacking on the right all game. Jonny Evans pushed forward until he was occupying the space normally taken up by Carrick or Paul Scholes. Wigan's shape continued to hold, however, and no real chances were created.
Then in the 65th minute, Fergie made his final substitution that really had supporters scratching their head. Nani on for Wayne Rooney, vice the logical removal of an awful Ryan Giggs. Although Rooney hadn't been great by any stretch of the imagination, he still provides the goal threat that was needed at that point in the game. Giggs on the other hand, had been wasteful all game and really lacked the bite required of a central midfielder.
For the last half hour, the Red Devils continued to push for the breakthrough but really didn't muster any real threats. The best fell to Danny Welbeck around the 85th minute but even that was while he was heading away from goal at a sharp angle. He did well to hit it with pace but Alli Al Habsi did well to get a hand on it.
A very disappointing day to be a Red Devil and combined with Manchester City's 4-0 win over West Brom, keeps the title race far from decided.
Feel free to discuss today's event ad nauseum, now I'm going to have some Scotch with Sweet Science.