19. Edwin Van der Sar
2. Gary Neville
5. Rio Ferdinand
6. Wes Brown
27. Mikael Silvestre (85)
7. Cristiano Ronaldo
22. John O’Shea
11. Ryan Giggs
13. Ji-Sung Park (71)
9. Louis Saha
8. Wayne Rooney
1. Tim Howard (GK)
3. Patrice Evra (85)
10. Ruud van Nistelrooy (71)
15. Nemanja Vidic
23. Kieran Richardson
Is there any club more determined than Sir Alex’s United for breaking hearts in injury time? Wigan suffered late in the match on Monday with an amazing own goal from Pascal Chimbonda, but they weren’t the first to die at the death of a game when the opposition curse their luck.
What might have been … if only … unlucky … yeah, we’ve heard them all. But United are in second place in the Premiership and finally have that Champion’s League ‘automatic’ spot in their own control.
As for Wigan? Probably still hiding under the bed this morning.
Paul Jewell’s side were never going to gain sweet revenge for their 4-0 Carling Cup final hammering at the hands of United eight days ago. OK, they promised it … and probably set their hearts on it. But even though they grabbed a 59th-minute lead through Austria international centre-back Paul Scharner, and probably shaded the the first-half too, they didn’t last the 90 minutes.
He was hardly a happy man warming the bench (again!), but was anyone surprised when it was the mighty Ruud van Nistelrooy who stepped onto the pitch to save face for Sir Alex Ferguson?
Van Nistelrooy didn’t seem to enjoy one minute at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, and was gutted to be handed a substitute spot at the JJB Stadium. But after just two minutes on the pitch he set up Ronaldo for the equaliser against Wigan, although it was more luck than good management.
Then in the second minute of injury time Chimbonda could not help but steer the ball over the line after a Saha shot ricocheted onto the bar off Scharner.
Jewell’s players have reached their season-long target of 40 points, and been the toast of the Premiership. They can still say they have Europe in their sights, but trust me … they can forget it. Spurs are bubbling; Newcastle are on a mission; and there are others with more quality that will send them tumbling. How they recover from this, only they will know.
They are not a side willing to roll over so easily. One scything, crunching tackle in the fifth minute from captain Arjan de Zeeuw on Ronaldo earned the centre-back a yellow card, but was enough to signal Wigan’s intent.
They will say they were dominant in the first half but the finishing touch was always rushed, as though they put everything into the hands of the Gods rather than in self belief. McCulloch, Camara, Kavanagh and Roberts all wasted chances in a goalless 45 minutes.
But finally in the 59th minute, they got lucky. Giggs initially cleared off the line a towering header from De Zeeuw in meeting a Bullard corner, and again as Roberts stabbed goalwards from McCulloch’s slice, but not a third time as Scharner poked home.
Sensing glory, Roberts flashed a drive wide soon after, but equally in sensing defeat, Ferguson brought on the ‘cavalry’ in Dutchman Van Nistelrooy.
Two minutes after his arrival in the 71st minute, his second touch led to the equaliser, teeing up Ronaldo for the winger to slide home his 11th goal of the season, and sixth in his last five games.
Then with seconds remaining came the bitter twist, with Chimbonda almost in tears as he lay prostrate in his own goalmouth, realising his attempted clearance had handed United victory.
Yep … that’s the Premiership for you!
Wigan 1 Man Utd 2
19. Edwin Van der Sar