WIGAN ATHLETIC 1, MAN UNITED 0.
Sean Maloney blew the Barclays Premier League title race wide open with lowly Wigan Athletic’s unlikely match-winning goal against mighty Manchester United at the DW Stadium.
It earned Wigan their first-ever victory against the Reds and lifted them out of the bottom three relegation places for the first time since September.
However, it at the opposite end of table where the reverberations were even greater as United’s eight-point lead was suddenly slashed to five as City breathed new life into their fading title challenge with a 4-0 home win against West Brom.
“It was one of those off-nights that you sometimes get in football,” declared Reds’ manager Sir Alex Ferguson who admitted his side under-performed, though he was convinced his side ought to have been awarded a second-half penalty.
He continued: “It was a disappointing night for us. We were second for every ball in the first half and we were completely dominated by Wigan.”
Ferguson also lavished praise on Wigan describing them as one of the best footballing teams in the division and occupying a false position.
United had won all 13 of their previous Premier League games against Wigan scoring 42 goals and conceding just four. They had been expected to preserve that record against their relegation-threatened opponents having strung together a run of eight straight victories.
It was a measure of how badly United performed that Ferguson had made all three changes by midway through the second period with Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Ashley Young all substituted.
It was clear from the kick off it would be a difficult night for United as Wigan played with real purpose as a drive from James McCarthy was turned over the bar by David de Gea.
Wigan also had a goal controversially chalked out just short of the half hour when Gary Caldwell was adjudged to have obstructed de Gea as Victor Moses powered home a header.
The ineffective Young was replaced by Tom Cleverley at the break while it was not long afterwards that Danny Welbeck and Nani were introduced to try and inject some vitality into a lacklustre display.
Maloney struck the decisive goal in the 50th minute cutting in from the left, though largely unchecked, before curling a shot beyond de Gea to his left.
United had a legitimate claim for a penalty rejected in the 73rd minute when a cross from Phil Jones clearly struck the arm of Maynor Figueroa.
Ferguson was remarkably conciliatory pointing out his side had enjoyed a lucky break three days earlier when their opening goal against QPR was clearly offside and these things even themselves out over the course of a season.