Title within United's reach
Manchester United need just one more point to retain their Premier League title after claiming a 2-1 win at Wigan.
Last Updated: 14/05/09 2:09pm
Manchester United need just one more point to retain their Premier League title after coming from behind to claim a 2-1 win at Wigan.
Hugo Rodallega's opener had the Latics dreaming of a shock scalp, and had the red half of Merseyside thinking their prayers had been answered, but Carlos Tevez made an immediate impact after stepping off the bench in the second half and Michael Carrick snatched a dramatic late winner.
Wigan could have been in front inside two minutes during an open contest, but Antonio Valencia spurned a glorious opportunity after racing away from the United defence.
The Red Devils were proving to be equally as wasteful in front of goal, though, with Wayne Rooney and Carrick failing to test Richard Kingson with two close range efforts inside a minute.
The torrential rain was doing neither side any favours, with conditions under foot proving to be increasingly treacherous.
However, it was the hosts that found their feet first, with Rodallega proving to be a handful up front.
The Colombian forward had already stung Edwin van der Sar's fingertips by the time he lashed Steve Bruce's side in front on 28 minutes.
Nemanja Vidic failed to deal with a looping ball into the United box and as the Serbian centre-half struggled to find his bearings, Rodallega powered a low drive inside the near post.
United became increasingly desperate as the game wore on, and just before the hour-mark Sir Alex Ferguson threw on Tevez to complement a forward line already consisting of Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Dimitar Berbatov.
It proved to be an inspired change as less then three minutes later a hopeful drive from Carrick was flicked goalwards in spectacular style by the bustling Argentine hit-man and nestled in the bottom corner.
Things could have got worse for Wigan, who have never taken a point from United in a Premier League encounter, but a coming together between Ronaldo and Maynor Figueroa on 72 minutes saw referee Rob Styles wave away strong penalty protests.
United were not to be denied, though, and with just four minutes left on the clock Carrick guided a controlled effort from the edge of the box past a stranded Kingson.
Any pretensions United had of being in for an easy evening were blasted out of the window after only two minutes.
The Red Devils' record against Wigan may have read eight wins from eight attempts, to an overall score of 23-3, and the Latics might still have been looking for their first league win against a top-four team, but Bruce was in no mood to let his old club saunter to their 18th league title.
Valencia, heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford as a summer replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo if he leaves for Real Madrid, also had a need to make an impression.
The Ecuador international certainly showed a pretty swift turn of pace to charge clear of Vidic once he had nipped in front of John O'Shea.
He did not have the finish to match, though, and, with Edwin van der Sar advancing, failed to find the target.
If that failure was bad, Wayne Rooney's was even worse.
Set up by Berbatov's deft chip, the England star, selected ahead of Tevez, rose well enough but got his header all wrong despite being totally unmarked in the centre of the six-yard box.
Carrick went close shortly afterwards and it seemed only a matter of time before the visitors opened their account and strolled to their usual victory.
Wigan, though, have proved at various stages of this campaign they have some pretty decent players.
Rodallega is one, the Colombian who arrived in the North West as a virtual unknown but has a sharp eye for goal to go with his strength.
And, after outmuscling Vidic, who was so convinced he should have had a free-kick he was eventually told by referee Rob Styles he would be sent off unless he let it go, he eventually located the loose ball and drilled it low past Van der Sar.
Rodallega had other opportunities, too, but then again so did United, Rooney scooping one shot over after an intricate series of passes involving Paul Scholes, Berbatov and Ronaldo.
It was one of those nights for the World Footballer of the Year. Too much arm-waving, not enough end product, two of his trademark free-kicks belted into the Wigan wall.
At the start of the second half Ronaldo did manage to create a chance for himself, only to drag a shot badly wide.
With the momentum continuing to favour Wigan, Ferguson introduced Tevez just before the hour - the South American having been left out, proving whatever else his one-man demonstration at Old Trafford on Sunday achieved, it did not influence team selection.
Where Tevez can leave a genuine impression is on the field. And, just as on Sunday, his timing was perfect, diverting Carrick's low shot into the net with a deliberate flick of his heel.
The glee on the Argentinian's face was at odds with that of a man desperate to leave Old Trafford, the urgency of Ronaldo's demands for him to get back for the restart at odds with the attitude of a man whose mind has already drifted elsewhere.
Mind you, Ferguson was not too impressed 10 minutes from time when Tevez rolled a neat pass to Ronaldo, who promptly blazed over as glory beckoned.
Yet how many times do United score important goals late on? In their world, 10 minutes is an eternity. Carrick needed only seven.
|Wigan Athletic||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||4|
|6||Shots off Target||9|