Wigan 1-0 Man United: Maloney re-opens title race
Published 21:48 11/04/12 By Martin Lipton
They can moan about the decisions that went against them.
Indeed they did, all the way to the dressing room.
They can complain at the penalties that should have been awarded, even if that will mean ignoring the big call at the other end as well.
Sir Alex Ferguson, though, passed up that opportunity, turning his ire on his players rather than the officials.
Maybe he accepted that after the last few weeks, there will no sympathy for Manchester United, nobody really wanting to hear Ferguson's moans
Maybe because he realised the problems were closer to home.
The truth is that United turned up at the DW Stadium like a team that already believed the title race was over - and left, chastened, and having potentially blown it wide open again.
Shaun Maloney's thrilling, brilliant curler gave Wigan their first win over United after a run of 14 straight defeats against the Old Trafford side.
More importantly, just as Roberto Martinez might have been beginning to think his side really were collateral damage as far as the officials were concerned, it means real life in the Latics' survival prospects.
This was supposed to be the night United proved why they will be champions again. Imperious, remorseless, unstoppable.
Instead, as Fergie's mood went from anger, to fury, to downright apoplexy, it exposed fault-lines that have not been seen since St James' Park in January, gave City hope when there was only despair.
United, still, are in the box seat. Three wins, and a draw at the Etihad and that 20th crown will be on Fergie's head.
But if they play like this again, allow themselves to be out-fought and out-thought, hustled and harried, then the coronation may not just be delayed.
It might be switched to a different cathedral, and different monarchs.
True, United had the right to be seething at the two late calls from Phil Dowd and assistant Dave Richardson, two spot-kick shouts that surely - on recent evidence - would have gone their way at Old Trafford.
That, though, came after they appeared to have got away with a massive escape themselves, courtesy of the two officials.
Wigan, terrific from the outset, as Maloney and Victor Moses caused panic attacks all night, through they had gone ahead on the half-hour.
Maloney swung the ball in, the unmarked Moses nodded home and the DW was celebrating, not noticing Richardson had raised his flag against Gary Caldwell for leaning into David De Gea.
It was beyond soft, another example of the big clubs getting the big calls, further grist to the Martinez mill after the weekend's events at Stamford Bridge, the Spaniard standing in grim-faced disbelief at the decision.
Yet where Wigan might have lost faith, they gained heart and, five minutes after the restart, the lead.
Jean Beasejour looked to have knocked the ball behind, rather than Jones but Dowd gave the corner and with United concentrating on keeping Caldwell off De Gea, they failed to notice the midfielder's short routine with Maloney, who took full advantage as he side-stepped Rooney before arcing home.
Ferguson, who had hooked Ashley Young at the break, gave Javier Hernandez and Rooney the same treatment but it was not until the final 20 minutes that there was any real response as Wiogen defended with grit and determination.
And when it mattered, the luck that has deserted them so many times, leaving Fergie incandescent.
Jones smashed in from the right, straight against the outstretched arm of Maynor Figueroa.
Dowd and Richardson had clear sight yet neither were moved, even as Jones leapt into the sky in utter outrage, protests he extended in Richardson's face after the final whistle.
Ferguson, too, bellowed his indignation at the referee, the passion raised further soon afterwards when Figueroa tugged substitute Danny Welbeck before hoofing away.
Yet there was no real late siege, no intensity, and it was only after Moses was denied by De Gea's foot and a deflection behind that Welbeck tested Ali Al Habsi for the first time in the match.
United, beaten, battered, only had themselves to blame. City, suddenly, might start believing again.
Wigan (3-4-2-1): Al Habsi 7; Alcaraz 7, Caldwell 7, Figueroa 6; Boyce 6, McArthur 7, McCarthy 7, Beausejour 6; Moses 8, Maloney 7 (Sammon, 77, 5); Di Santo 6 (Diame, 70, 6)
Manchester United (4-4-2): De Gea 6; Jones 6, Ferdinand 7, Evans 5, Evra 6; Valencia 5, Carrick 6, Giggs 6, Young 5 (Cleverly, 46, 6); Rooney 6 (Nani, 65, 6), Hernandez 5 (Welbeck 58, 6)
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Moses: Tortured United all night