Latics return from Old Trafford with heads held high

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In the Premier League years, Wigan Athletic have never earned a point against Manchester United. Last season, we recorded two 5-0 reverses against our North West cousins, the red half of Manchester. In arguably the biggest match of the past decade in Wigan's colours, we were beaten 4-0 in Cardiff in the League Cup final after a Rooney and Ronaldo masterclass.

Only twice have Wigan even come close to scoring a draw against the Red Devils, in May 2009, when Michael Carrick's late winner at the DW secured the points for United, and then, even more agonisingly, in March 2006, when Pascal Chimbonda's last minute own goal gave United a win which had seemed unlikely for the whole of the preceding 89 minutes.

There has been an argument that Wigan are 'over-awed' by the Old Trafford men. That as soon as the fixture lists are announced, United already pencil in six points against the Latics. And yet, in the Premier League years, we've beaten Chelsea 3-1, Arsenal 3-2, we've started to take at least a point from Liverpool on a regular basis. And this year we beat the current flavour of the month, Tottenham Hotspur, on their own patch.

So what is it about Manchester United that the Latics just can't seem to overcome? Is it a massive mental stumbling block? An 11 game run of bad luck? Poor refereeing? It's hard to say, but one thing is for sure, in this weekend's match against United at the Theatre of Dreams, I don't think we've ever had a better chance of beating the Reds.

United were well below par against a Latics’ side who bossed the midfield at times, and always looked stronger, more physical. Ronnie Stam in particular deserves great credit for his tireless performance.

Until the two sendings-off in three minutes, make no mistake, Wigan were well and truly in the match. Which is not to say the sendings off were in any way unjust, they weren't, but for once the Latics can come away from a game against United knowing we shot ourselves in the foot rather than being played off the park.

In the first half, until Evra's goal, Wigan were arguably the better side, certainly we'd had the clearer cut chances, with Rodallega nearly scrambling one in early on. But Manchester United always score, especially against nine men, and we'll just have to learn our lessons and live on to fight another day.

One note of disappointment: the away support. This is the biggest, most exciting away game of the calendar, and yet again we couldn't sell our allocation. The fans who went tried manfully to create some kind of atmosphere, but really, strength comes in numbers.

Just as it does on the pitch.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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