Manchester United Progress After Comfortable FA Cup Win at Wigan

Shaun Maloney had wanted to know whether the team he supported as a boy could outfight and outplay the side he coaches in adulthood. The answer was a resounding yes, unfortunately for the Wigan Athletic manager, as Manchester United avoided a third round upset and further torment for Erik ten Hag with a professional job at the DW Stadium.

A fine finish from Diogo Dalot and the softest of penalties for Bruno Fernandes secured United a fourth-round trip to either League Two Newport County or Eastleigh of the National League. The visitors dominated Wigan, who were hoping for another FA Cup scalp in front of their biggest home attendance for a decade but only seriously threatened one from their first attack. The gulf between the Premier League and League One told, though Wigan were spared greater punishment by United’s profligacy in front of goal.

Wigan Defeated: Manchester United’s FA Cup Progression

Wigan Defeated: Manchester United's FA Cup Progression

“We should have scored more but the good thing is we created the chances,” said Ten Hag, who went as strong as possible with his starting lineup despite missing eight players through injury and illness. “It is a massive competition and everyone wants to win the FA Cup. We take it seriously.” United must, as it is their only chance to lift another arduous season with silverware.

Ineos executives Dave Brailsford and Jean-Claude Blanc took a front row seat in the directors’ box, alongside former United CEO David Gill, as they continue their review into the inner workings of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s latest investment. It was an uncomfortable opening for the visitors as Wigan almost scored from their first attack. Martial Godo led a counter-attack and picked out the unmarked Thelo Aasgaard with a low cross to the back post. It needed a fine save from André Onana to prevent the Liverpool-born, Norway under-21 international converting with a first time shot. Wigan were not to know it, but their best opportunity had been and gone.

Maloney admitted: “It might have changed the dynamic of the game at that time but United had a lot of chances. It was a big chance but I can’t criticise the effort of the team. It was difficult at times but I hope our players take a lot from it.”

Wigan were confident and positive in possession with Fulham loanee Godo prominent, but United’s superior technique and movement gradually told. The visitors should have been out of sight by the interval but a combination of poor finishing, good goalkeeping and misfortune limited Ten Hag’s side to a slender one-goal advantage.

Quick Highlights of the game

United took the lead through an excellent finish from Dalot. Marcus Rashford teed up the left-back after his initial shot had been blocked by defender Liam Morrison. There was a packed penalty area between Dalot and goal but he curled a precise shot beyond the Wigan goalkeeper Sam Tickle into the bottom corner.

Rashford was involved in most of United’s best moments yet, by the same token, was also wasteful considering the amount of possession he received. He brought the first save from Tickle with a low shot that the keeper reacted to sharply and almost doubled the visitors’ lead when Tickle fumbled the striker’s shot against a post. To Wigan’s relief, the keeper was just able to retrieve the ball before it crossed the line.

Tickle denied Rasmus Højlund with his legs and was reprieved again when parrying a swerving Rashford shot straight into the path of the Denmark forward. The ball hit Højlund and trickled wide of Tickle’s goal. Alejandro Garnacho struck the crossbar from distance and Scott McTominay missed yet another clear opening when launching himself at a Fernandes cross only to head wide from close range.

United continued to dominate possession after the break but were almost punished for the basic error of falling asleep at a Wigan throw-in. Aasgaard strolled away from Jonny Evans to the byline and centred for Godo, perfectly placed on the penalty spot and also left unmarked by the United defence. The winger miscued his volley badly off target.

The impressive Kobbie Mainoo forced Tickle into a low save and made a vital interception to halt Godo’s surge into the United area when Wigan staged a rare break. The irritation of the away fans at Rashford’s casual approach was notable while the tie somehow remained in the balance.

The England international produced a telling response, however, with a key contribution to United’s second goal. Rashford burst past Sean Clare to the byline where, having previously ran the ball out of play or shot into a Wigan defender, he pulled an intelligent ball back for Fernandes.

Liam Shaw stretched out a leg in an attempt to intercept Rashford’s pass and that was all the invitation the United captain required to go to ground after a slight touch of toes. The referee, Anthony Taylor, took his time before pointing to the spot, to the disgust of the majority of the DW Stadium, and Fernandes ignored the jeers to send Tickle the wrong way with a cool penalty into the bottom corner.

The penalty proved the decisive moment, extinguishing any lingering Wigan hopes of a comeback. Ten Hag replaced Højlund with Anthony Elanga and Donny van de Beek with Fred in the closing stages, while Maloney introduced Callum Lang and Joe Dodoo in a final throw of the dice. The substitutions failed to spark a revival for either side, however, and the final whistle confirmed a comfortable 2-0 win for United.

A Tough fight by Wigan

While the scoreline does not tell the whole story of the match, with Wigan offering more resistance than many expected, United will be content with their progress to the fourth round. They remain firmly on course for their only realistic chance of silverware this season, and Ten Hag will be pleased with the professional performance, even if his side’s finishing left much to be desired.

For Wigan, the FA Cup adventure is over, but the performance against a team of United’s calibre will provide valuable encouragement for the rest of the League One campaign. Maloney will hope to build on the positives and push his team towards promotion, while United will turn their attention back to the Premier League with a trip to Crystal Palace next weekend.

Manchester United eased past Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup third round, booking their place in the fourth round with a 2-0 win. Despite struggling with their finishing at times, United were always in control and ultimately deserved the victory.

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