Manchester United avoided an FA Cup upset on Monday night by beating League One side Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium to set up a fourth-round trip to Newport County or Eastleigh later in January.
While United were wasteful in front of goal throughout the game, Diogo Dalot’s strike broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute before Bruno Fernandes rolled in a second-half penalty he won after going down from Liam Shaw’s desperate lunge.
The victory keeps the Red Devils’ hopes of silverware alive for 2023/24. They will take on either League Two outfit Newport or Eastleigh of the National League later this month for a place in the fifth round.
How the game unfolded
Classic Monkees tune ‘I’m a Believer’ bellowed out at the DW Stadium moments before kick-off, setting the scene for the final FA Cup tie of the third round aside from replays. A trip to Newport or Eastleigh was the reward for the winners and Wigan showed their desire by creating the match’s first big chance.
Sean Clare and Martial Godo combined down the fight flank before Thelo Aasgaard was found at the back post. However, the Norway Under-21 international saw his finish smothered by the onrushing Andre Onana.
It was an almost perfect start for Wigan, but the visitors soon took a stranglehold on the game as Marcus Rashford tested Latics goalkeeper Sam Tickle with a low drive which was pushed behind.
Scott McTominay nearly converted a Dalot cross from close range, but it mattered little as the Red Devils took the lead through the Portugal international shortly after.
Alejandro Garnacho’s cross almost found Rasmus Hojlund, but the ball eventually reached Dalot on the edge of the box where he curled in the opener to settle his side’s nerves.
Wigan’s breakaway threat had waned and they only reached half-time with a 1-0 deficit due to Man Utd’s inefficient finishing. Another Rashford effort was almost fumbled into his own goal by Tickle before he stuck out his left boot to deny Hojlund.
Hojlund then hit the bar with a header when he should have netted from point-blank range, while Garnacho also smacked the woodwork after letting fly from 22 yards out.
The second half continued in a similar vein as United probed in possession, with a nice combination from Fernandes and Hojlund almost resulting in Erik ten Hag’s side doubling their lead. A deflected McTominay effort looped just over the far corner as quality chances kept slipping through United’s fingers.
The visitors were in danger of leaving the game open for Wigan to mount a late offensive due to their profligacy in front of goal, but the anxiety levels in the away end dropped when Fernandes won a penalty. While the contact was minimal, Shaw’s challenge was wild and it allowed United’s captain to extend his side’s advantage by sending Tickle the wrong way from the spot.
Any danger posed from Wigan had firmly dissipated after that goal in the 74th minute, leaving them empty-handed despite a stout and disciplined performance from Shaun Maloney’s side.
It’s a return to winning ways for United after their defeat at Nottingham Forest last time out as Ten Hag looks to go one step further in the FA Cup than last season, when they were defeated by local rivals Manchester City at Wembley.
GK: Sam Tickle – 7/10 – Kept Man Utd from extending their lead with six saves in the first half. A few iffy moments but couldn’t have done much more on the night.
RB: Sean Clare – 6/10 – Made a fast start in attack but soon had to sit in to keep Rashford and Dalot at bay.
CB: Liam Morrison – 7/10 – Important block denied McTominay from close range. Often on hand to clear threatening United attacks.
CB: Charlie Hughes – 6/10 – Looked composed on the ball but was largely restricted to defending his area throughout.
LB: Steven Sessegnon – 5/10 – Had a lot of problems dealing with Garnacho’s pace and trickery.
CM: Liam Shaw – 4/10 – Saw United’s midfielders breeze past him in transition, losing out in a number of ground duels. Dived in on Fernandes to give away a penalty and end Wigan’s hopes of progression.
CM: Babajide Adeeko – 7/10 – Spirited showing in midfield. Just needed a few others to play at his level to really threaten an upset.
RW: Martial Godo – 6/10 – Showed quick feet in some promising scenarios but his attacks were often snuffed out.
AM: Thelo Aasgaard – 5/10 – Had to score early on when played in.
LW: Jordan Jones – 5/10 – Had a few chances to deliver out wide but was mainly penned in helping his side defend.
ST: Stephen Humphrys – 5/10 – Had two shots blocked and came off just before the hour.
SUB: Josh Magennis (59′ for Humphrys) – 5/10 – Found it hard to get involved.
SUB: Callum McManaman (78′ for Jones) – N/A
SUB: Jonny Smith (78′ for Shaw) – N/A
SUB: Callum Lang (90′ for Godo) – N/A
Subs not used: Charlie Wyke, James Carragher, Jason Kerr, Luke Robinson, Ben Amos.
Shaun Maloney – 6/10 – Got plenty of effort out of his players but the gap in quality just proved too much in the end.
GK: Andre Onana – 7/10 – Excellent early stop kept the game goalless before Man Utd took the lead. Called into action sporadically.
RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 6/10 – A more cautious performance at right-back but did little wrong in a solid enough display.
CB: Raphael Varane – 7/10 – Suffered a whack to the face early in the second half but shook it off. Was rarely threatened in behind.
CB: Jonny Evans – 7/10 – Made some adventurous runs to open up space for others in attack and stepped in well to stop Wigan’s forays forward.
LB: Diogo Dalot – 8/10 – Stayed high up the pitch and gave his side the lead with a curled effort from the edge of the box.
CM: Scott McTominay – 7/10 – Crashed his way into the box on occasion and was one of a few players guilty of missing gilt-edged chances.
CM: Kobbie Mainoo – 8/10 – Looks so at ease in Man Utd’s midfield. Used the ball smartly and stopped a lot of potential Wigan counter-attacks.
RW: Alejandro Garnacho – 8/10 – Nearly bagged another wondrous goal, seeing a speculative effort come back off the bar. Scampered past Wigan defenders on countless occasions and was a threat throughout.
AM: Bruno Fernandes – 8/10 – Stitched Man Utd’s attacks together masterfully. Made sure of the result by winning and converting the penalty.
LW: Marcus Rashford – 7/10 – Laid the ball back to Dalot for an assist. Had good opportunities to score but just couldn’t quite work the perfect opening.
ST: Rasmus Hojlund – 6/10 – Had no shortage of chances and found space with good movement. Hit the woodwork but could have left the DW Stadium with the match ball.
SUB: Willy Kambwala (83′ for Dalot) – N/A
SUB: Facundo Pellistri (87′ for Garnacho) – N/A
SUB: Omari Forson (90′ for Rashford) – N/A
SUB: Hannibal Mejbri (90′ for Hojlund) – N/A
Subs not used: Joe Hugill, Shola Shoretire, Rhys Bennett, Altay Bayindir, Tom Heaton.
Erik ten Hag – 7/10 – Avoided a potential banana skin at a League One side and will be plotting a deep run in this competition.