Wigan Athletic deservedly beat Manchester United while Manchester City thrashed West Brom to give the Citizens a glimmer of hope in the Premier League title race.
Shaun Maloney’s curling effort past David de Gea in the first half separated the Latics and the Reds at the DW Stadium, giving the home side their first ever victory over United.
City, boasting Carlos Tevez in their starting lineup for the first time since September, saw their quartet of Spanish speakers shoot them to victory. Tevez netted his first of the season while Sergio Aguero bagged a brace and David Silva scored for the first time since 19 December.
They now lie five points behind neighbours United at the summit of the table, who were dismal against Roberto Martinez’s positive and determined team.
In the 13 games since their 2005 promotion to England’s top tier, Wigan had lost every game against United, by an aggregate score of 42-4. Maloney became the fourth member in a select club to score against the Red Devils on Tuesday night, joining Paul Scharner, Leighton Baines and Hugo Rodallega.
Already in the first-half they arguably had cause for grievance when Victor Moses’ header from a Maloney corner was ruled out, seemingly for Steven Caldwell obstructing De Gea.
The Spaniard, excellent the past two months, has noticeably not faced a repeat of the aerial awkwardness which was served up for him at Anfield during United’s fourth round FA Cup defeat to Liverpool. He did last night and struggled despite not being punished.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest concerns lay not in goal, but in his midfield again. The pedestrian pairing of Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick were overrun by the sprightliness of James’ McArthur and McCarthy, and with such flimsy protection afforded United’s defence, it wilted.
Suddenly everyone lapsed, with Ashley Young emerging as the visitors’ best defender. Rooney was embarrassingly drafted into midfield – another advertisement of United’s incompetence in the area the past few seasons.
Young was erroneously hauled off at half-time as Ferguson’s reliance on the 38-year-old Giggs was patented again. Tom Cleverley, on loan at Wigan last season, offered a more incisive approach, but was surrounded by forlorn team-mates.
When Wigan deservedly took the lead, there was an element of ironic fortune. Jean Beausejour clearly ran the ball out for a goal kick yet a corner was awarded, much to Jones’ despair. United got caught out two-on-one when it was taken short and Maloney bypassed Rooney with ease before executing a glorious effort past De Gea.
Rooney made way for Danny Welbeck and Nani came on for the hapless Javier Hernandez, as the Red Devils began to enjoy control of the game but barely threatened Ali al-Habsi’s goal.
Twice they were denied penalties when Luciano Figueroa clearly handled the ball and Caldwell pulled at Welbeck’s shirt, but their luck with refereeing decisions had run out. Ferguson, after the game, wisely did not complain and admitted Wigan deserved to win.