5 Things We Learned: Wigan Athletic 1 Manchester United 0
By Thomas Doyle
1) Scholes has become integral to United…again
With Paul Scholes being given a rest, the midfield duties were left to Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs against a WIgan side that has never gained a Premiership point from United. While the duo combined for a slick move in the first half, they failed to click in terms of passing and dominating the middle, and Wigan began to overrun United in the middle of the park. It goes to show just how important Scholes has once again become that his calm, accurate control of tempo was sorely missed at the DW Stadium, and while he may be in need of more rest than other players at 37 years of age, he will be even more crucial in an attempt to prevent Manchester City from clawing back the five point gap that now separates the neighbours.
2) Misfiring strikers and an absent Berbatov
While Dimitar Berbatov may clearly be on his way in the summer after his agent admitted that United would let him leave to focus on a more dynamic style of play, Berbatov could have been a great option to come off of the bench with United chasing a goal. Perhaps he is not being risked should any injuries wreck a transfer or lower the potential fee, but it makes no sense to have such a talented player kicking his heels when the likes of Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are struggling to fire on all cylinders, and Wayne Rooney clearly struggled for form last night. With five crucial games to go, United need all the firepower they can muster; when called upon this season, the Bulgarian has delivered, and if given the chance, he may yet provide a vital parting gift.
3) Evans above…he finally has a bad game
It would be cruel to lambast Jonny Evans for this performance after such a fine season so far, but the Northern Irishman was particularly out of sorts at the DW on Wednesday night. He could well have seen red after a late lunge in the second half went unpunished, and he was given a torrid time by the likes of Victor Moses and Franco di Santo all evening. Some of the blame must be placed on Ferguson’s shoulders, as with a midfield combination of Giggs and Carrick, neither was likely to give the defence the same level of protection and time as Scholes normally affords them. However, every player is due a bad game once in a while, and it is a testament to Evans’ form so far that a poor display is now an exception, rather than the norm.
4) Decisions don’t always go Manchester United’s way
United got a fortuitous decision against QPR in that Ashley Young was offside before Shaun Derry made contact that resulted in a penalty and a red card for the QPR captain. However, Phil Jones made no contact with the ball for the corner that led to Shaun Maloney’s fine curling winner in the 50th minute, and Jones was then denied a blatant penalty after Maynor Figueroa clearly handled a cross with 20 minutes remaining. Some in the media suggest that the big clubs get all the big decisions, but this time it was Ferguson’s men who were on the receiving end of poor officiating.
5) Now is the time for cool heads
With City blasting away West Brom with a 4-0 ego boost, the gap at the top suddenly looks a lot smaller, particularly with the derby just three games away. However, United have been here before, and two home games in a row are the perfect tonic to an uncomfortable away loss. While Aston Villa and Everton (in particular the resurgent Blues) cannot be underestimated – juts look at Wigan on Wednesday and Blackburn at home – Ferguson will be confident that with Scholes rested and back in the team, the Red Devils will still be going in to the derby game with a five point cushion. That lead would have been laughed off at Christmas time, but United have the know-how in order to pick themselves up and carry on going. A couple of big wins, with a nice boost to the goal difference, could technically ensure that United could lose at the Etihad, draw another game, and conceivably win the league, so while everybody’s eyes are on the derby on 30th April, the next two home matches are arguably the most important of United’s season – win those, and a draw at City would all but clinch it.