If we’re being totally honest, this was pretty much always going to be a blank weekend for Latics, with next week’s trip to West Ham seeing the resumption of our season proper.
Except perhaps not. Perhaps Wigan could do the unthinkable and somehow come away from Old Trafford with something more than a Wayne Rooney gingerbread man (which was quite nice, by the way, and I don’t even like Mancunian shortbread). Perhaps pigs might be spotted boarding Concorde at Liverpool John Lennon airport. Maybe Lionel Messi would be seen at the DW Stadium negotiating a cut price contract involving a year’s supply of free Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls.
If we’re being serious (wot that?), today was as good a time as any for Latics to grind out their first point(s) at the Theatre of Broken Dreams, not least because normally Man United are absolutely powerhousing their way through all in their path. This hasn’t been the case in the last couple of months, even if losses at Old Trafford are still as rare as an Olivier Kapo shot on target as they’ve ever been.
Nevertheless, with Wigan on good form of late, there was always hope that the planets might align and Latics would scrape a flukey draw. For the first 30 minutes of the game, however, this was looking far from feasible, with United bossing possession and looking the more likely to score. As the end of the half drew near, though, Wigan started to get some passes going and created a few decent chances. You might even say we should have scored, and indeed a goal might have been more than useful in our seemingly futile quest to score an away win at Manchester United (dude).
In a similar vein to recent games, Latics began to find their feet towards the end of the first period, and somehow managed to avoid conceding to boot. Just when you felt things were going to plan, United grabbed one on the nick of half time, and it could well have been prevented. If Ali Al-Habsi had committed to claiming the ball, he probably would have been able to stop Evra’s header finding the back of the net. As it was, he was left in Half and Halfsville as lost as Steve Caldwell navigating Wigan town centre’s one way system.
A blow, no doubt, but a bright start to the second half raised hopes almost immediately. No goal would result, but Wigan were beginning to wrest some control from the home side, much to my own surprise. It looked set to be an interesting second half until a kamikaze challenge from Antolin Alcaraz consigned the Paraguayan to a premature cucumber sandwich. Latics are starting to develop a habit of making it hard for themselves away from home, and things were about to become far worse as Hugo Rodallega also saw red for his two-footed tackle on Rafael. Crikey.
As far as damage limitation is concerned, then, 2-0 is a very good result for Wigan. It could have been so much more positive, though, because a lacklustre Manchester United were –dare I say it– actually beatable for once. For the most part, they wasted their own time, dwelled on the ball a bit too much, and couldn’t hit an elephant with a bazooka from five yards. No offence to pachyderms.
They did manage a second goal, eventually, but evidently decided it would be too harsh on Wigan to kick them while they were down. Wayne Rooney, making a return after his extended holiday, kindly managed to direct all his shots straight at Al Habsi. An early Chrimbo pressie, perhaps? Cheers for sparing us the goal difference, Wayne, but it may not be too important in the grand scheme of things. I’d have rather had a box of chocolates or something.
What do you do when you’ve nine men at Old Trafford? Get battered, usually. Thankfully we weren’t, and actually come away frustrated, robbed of the chance to mount a comeback. Worse, Latics will have to make do without linchpins Alcaraz and Rodallega for next week’s all-important Premier League game at the Boleyn Ground.
I wouldn’t worry unduly, however, as Di Santo and Gohouri/Caldwell should be able to do the trick and hopefully help propel us out of the relegation zone we’ve fallen into once again. In fact, I wouldn’t worry full stop, because I have every confidence the good football we’ve been playing of late will come to fruition in terms of results soon. As I’ve been rambling on about in recent weeks, there have been plenty of positives to take from the last month or two, and at the very least the football we’re playing is a mile ahead of the rabble that showed up against Blackpool and Chelsea.