Sold-out DW has to be carrot for future, insists Wigan Athletic chief

Latics hosted Manchester United in front of a sell-out crowd at the DW on Monday nightLatics hosted Manchester United in front of a sell-out crowd at the DW on Monday night
Latics hosted Manchester United in front of a sell-out crowd at the DW on Monday night
Wigan Athletic's sell-out FA Cup third-round tie against Manchester United has hopefully given everyone at the club a reminder of what the future could hold - including the new ownership.

That's the view of manager Shaun Maloney, who played for Latics during their Premier League heyday, and wants a return to those halcyon days to remain the club's long-term goal.

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"Monday was good for the new owner, it's the first time he'll have seen the stadium like that," said Maloney, who relished the opportunity to manage against United, despite the scoreline. "And that's the ambition...although we're a million miles away at the moment, or it feels that way.”

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The FA Cup third-round tie was always going to be a free hit for Latics, who have twice come close to going out of business in the last four years.

But they gave a good account of themselves – both individually and collectively – and Maloney was still left to ponder what might have been at the end.

"Once the game starts, you just want to compete, and you just want to win, no matter who you're playing,” he said.

"It became very, very difficult early, and that's what Manchester United are very good at, when they have the ball.

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"When there's that amount of difference between the levels of the teams, and the divisions between us, you can't really defend one-v-one, or man for man.

"Manchester United are very, very good at finding that free man, that's why they had a long, long time with the ball.

"It would be a brilliant game to try to analyse, but when it started it quickly became very, very difficult."

Maloney's team was made up of mostly free agents, loan signings and Academy products, with the likes of Charlie Hughes and Sam Tickle being singled out for special praise for their performances.

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"It was a very big game for everyone, but especially the young lads," acknowledged Maloney. "We obviously relied very heavily on our goalkeeper, and I thought he had some brilliant moments.

"And during the course of the game, I thought both centre-backs, Charlie Hughes and Liam Morrison, were brilliant as well.

"In a very tough game attacking wise, I also thought Martial Godo showed real talent.

"It's so hard when you're defending for long periods, and when you do receive the ball you are so deep.

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"It was a big night for all of the young ones, and I hope they take a lot from it.”

Latics don’t have long to lick their wounds, as they return to league action this weekend ahead of an EFL Trophy round of 16 tie at Doncaster next Tuesday.

"I know this month is very big for us, and we have a very big game at Northampton on Saturday,” the Latics boss added.

"We have to stay in League One, that has always been the top priority.

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"I've never had a season where we've started on minus points, and it's been a constant battle week after week, but it's back to work.

"Monday was a brilliant match to try to prepare for, I loved it. But you also want to win, so I don't love it so much now."