Warren Joyce was left to reflect on what might have been after watching his Wigan Athletic side crash out of the FA Cup at the fourth-round stage thanks to a 4-0 defeat at Manchester United.
Latics had given as good as they’d got for the vast majority of an entertaining first half, but were unable to convert any of their chances while they were on top.
They were rocked on the stroke of half-time when Marouane Fellaini put United ahead with a header from close range.
And second-half goals from Chris Smalling, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Bastian Schweinsteiger gave the scoreline a thoroughly lop-sided look.
“I was disappointed with the way we conceded, and also the timing,” acknowledged the Latics boss.
“I thought for 44 minutes we did everything pretty much right.
“We had a good method with the way we were closing down, and I thought the lads were brave enough to take the ball up and pass it through the lines.
“I thought we created the best chances with some pretty clever football.
“But we’ve conceded a goal that you see every week in the Championship, and that’s the disappointing thing.”
Before United got into their stride, Callum Connolly saw a rasping drive parried out by Sergio Romero, while Michael Jacobs couldn’t connect with a gilt-edged opportunity from bang in front of goal.
And even after United had taken the lead, Latics could and should have levelled, only for David Perkins to see a goalbound shot blocked by Smalling with Romero on the ground and helpless.
“The chance that Perks had, was as good a piece of movement as there was in the match,” recognised Joyce.
“The goalkeeper was down, you’re just thinking: ‘Go on, hit the back of the net’.
“That would have been 1-1, and you’re back in the game.
“But to then concede from second phase from a corner, with another free header, is disappointing.
“If you come here and get carved open by world-class players, you hold your hands up and say: ‘That’s why they are here’.
“But the lads gave a really good account of themselves, they were tactically very clever.
“For 60 minutes I was really pleased with a lot of things.
“For the last 20 minutes, you can forget about really because we’re going gung-ho.
“It’s irrelevant really, and 4-0 flatters them really.
“The lads are down at the moment, but they certainly wouldn’t have been down if they’d gone in at 0-0 at half-time.
“It’s fine margins again, and we’ve talked about that after a lot of the games since I’ve been here.”
United’s superiority in the final quarter was such that they were able to bring on Axel Tuanzebe - a player well-known to former Reds Under-23 boss Joyce - for his debut at right-back, with young goalkeeper Joel Pereira also tasting action late on.
“I’ve known these kids for a long time, and you’ve got memories of games, and winning trophies with them,” added Joyce.
“I’m delighted for them to have made their debuts for Manchester United, and also the type of boys they are.
“I hope they have long, successful careers, because they are the type of player you want to represent you as a Manchester United coach.”