Wigan Athletic 1 Manchester United 0

Shaun Maloney after scoring on Wednesday
Shaun Maloney after scoring on Wednesday
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SHAUN Maloney grabbed a memorable winner as Wigan Athletic wrote the latest page in their Premier League glory story.

Up to last night, mighty Manchester United had won all 14 of the previous encounters between the two sides.

But this was Wigan’s night from start to finish.

Ali Al Habsi barely touched the ball as the home side ripped into the champions, and the winning margin could and should have been even more.

Victor Moses had a goal controversially disallowed just before the break as Latics sought to convert their territorial and possessional superiority into something tangible.

But they were not to be denied, and Maloney’s magnificent effort four minutes after the restart clinched a famous three points.

The triumph lifts Latics out of the bottom three for the first time in months - a potentially significant stride with just five matches remaining.

Roberto Martinez had named an unchanged side for the fifth game in a row, Momo Diame remaining on the bench despite his goalscoring cameo off the bench at Chelsea.

United named a near-full strength XI as they looked to close in on the title, with Antonio Valencia returning to his former stomping ground and ex-Latics loanee Tom Cleverley on the bench.

The Wigan fans were out in force before the game to welcome their side into the stadium, and the home side certainly had the bit between their teeth from the off.

James McCarthy stung the fingertips of David de Gea in the opening skirmishes, with front three Moses, Maloney and Franco di Santo giving their opposite numbers something to think about.

United were also looking sharp from the off, Javier Hernandez getting an early half-sight of goal before he was dispossessed by Gary Caldwell.

Moses broke promisingly down the middle before running down a blind alley, and Maloney did well to steal a yard for himself down the left only to pick out Rio Ferdinand with his cross.

Ryan Giggs then played a lovely one-two with Michael Carrick and had the opportunity to either put a cross in or shoot, only for Maynor Figueroa to get across and make a timely block.

Jonny Evans picked up the first yellow card of the game for a cynical pull on Di Santo as Latics tried for a counter-attack.

And the centre-back had to watch his step as Di Santo broke clear of him seconds later with Moses in support.

The pass was slightly behind Moses, and the ball rebounded back off the heels of the winger as he bore down on De Gea’s goal.

Latics regained possession and Moses did eventually receive the ball, although the flag was up on the near side.

Moses did well to wriggle free of Evans, but elected to shoot instead of playing in Di Santo and the ball deflected over for a corner.

Which led to Latics yet again finding themselves on the wrong side of yet another wretched refereeing decision.

Maloney’s corner was excellent and headed home powerfully by Moses, the Latics players rushing to join him en masse.

However, as the celebrations went on, it became apparent that the assistant on the near side had his flag in the air, and the ‘goal’ was chalked off.

As the PA continued to play Wigan’s goal music and the players hugged each other, the realisation of what had occured gradually dawned on them - especially so when United played a quick free-kick and launched the ball forward.

Martinez’s face in the technical area was a picture as he struggled to comprehend what had just happened, with TV replays showing no Latics player coming anywhere near to committing an offence.

The remainder of the half was a surreal experience, Latics trying to maintain their foothold in the game while, at the same time, struggling to suppress the huge sense of injustice felt by every one of their players, the management and the fans in the stand.

To their credit, they managed to keep United at arm’s length, with the visitors only mustering a shot by Wayne Rooney that sailed well wide of the mark.

Sir Alex Ferguson showed his concern at the break by making a change, withdrawing Ashley Young and sending on Cleverley to bolster the midfield.

But Latics slipped straight back into their stride and continued to dominate in terms of possession and territory.

They were also putting in the work off the ball, too, Moses following the lead of the tireless Di Santo and harrying Ferdinand into a mistake, only to lose the ball under his feet.

But the momentum was all with Wigan, and the opening goal eventually arrived four minutes after the restart.

Maloney played a short corner with Beausejour and took a swift return pass.

The former Celtic man took a touch, and cut inside a covering defender, before curling a majestic strike past the fingertips of De Gea and into the top corner.

It was a goal fit to win any match - Latics only had the small matter of hanging on for 41 minutes to seal the deal.

United attempted an immediate response, but Rooney’s floater floated just over Ali Al Habsi’s crossbar.

And that was the signal for Ferguson to make his second substitution, Danny Welbeck taking over from the ineffective Hernandez.

The home fans were up in arms again on the hour mark when Phil Jones got away with as obvious a handball as you could imagine, right in front of a thoroughly unimpressed Martinez.

But they seized the opportunity to raise the third biggest cheer of the night - this time of the mocking variety - when, with 25 minutes left, Ferguson made his final substitution, Nani replacing an out-of-sorts Rooney.

There followed a passage of play where Latics, for perhaps the first time all night, struggled to keep the ball, as United attempted to turn the screw.

But still, at the three-quarter mark, Al Habsi was yet to make a save of any note.

Martinez made his first change with 20 minutes on the clock, Di Santo giving way after a sterling shift for Diame, the goalscoring hero from last weekend.

Al Habsi had to come to collect a corner from Giggs with Jones coming in like an expreess train behind him, before it was United’s turn to surround the linesman on the near side in disgust.

Giggs got to the byline and flashed a cross inside that appeared to strike the hand of Maynor Figueroa, only for Dowd to wave play on.

Figueroa was then on hand to clear a dangerous cross from Nani that Welbeck tried to flick past Al Habsi when he may have been better advised putting his foot through it.

And it was as much to secure a badly-needed break in play that Martinez sent on Conor Sammon for Maloney.

Emmerson Boyce was then carded for a pull-back on Nani as the Portuguese advanced on goal, before Latics had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0.

Moses turned Ferdinand inside out before firing straight at De Gea, and then Sammon jinked his way through down the right past Evans.

With no-one supporting the Irishman, he bided his time before pulling it back to Diame, whose shot struck Ferdinand.

The rebound went straight back to Diame, who intelligently played in Moses.

But this time the shot was inches past the post and again United had received a let-off.

It was end to end as the game neared the final five minutes, and Welbeck had a clear sight of goal only for Al Habsi to make a solid block and, crucially, clear the ball out of the danger zone.

And despite an agonising five minutes of added time, in reality it was Latics who came closest to adding to the score as they comfortably held on.

Latics: Al Habsi 7; Alcaraz 8, Caldwell 8, Figueroa 8; Boyce 8, McCarthy 9, McArthur 9, Beausejour 8; Maloney 9, Moses 9; Di Santo 8.

Subs: Pollitt, Stam, Watson, Diame (for Di Santo, 70), Crusat, Sammon (for Maloney, 78).

United: De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Young; Hernandez, Rooney.

Subs: Amos, Smalling, Pogba, Park, Cleverley (for Young, 46), Nani (for Rooney, 65), Welbeck (for Hernandez, 58).

Star Man: Shaun Maloney