When Alex Ferguson says Manchester United deserved to lose, his charges really have put on a poor display, but whether Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at lowly Wigan Athletic has really opened up the Premier League title race remains to be seen.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini did not think so, despite his side cutting the gap at the top to five points with a thumping 4-0 home victory over West Bromwich Albion.
Carlos Tevez scored on his first start for City since September last year, but with five matches remaining, including a meeting between the top two on April 30, Mancini is either playing mind games or is genuinely downbeat about his side’s chances of glory.
“I don’t believe it,” Mancini told Sky Sports when asked if the title race had been reopened. “Manchester United is a fantastic team, they have fantastic spirit and I think they can win this title.”
“It was about time [we shone]. For three or four games, we didn’t play well,” added the Italian, whose side lost at Arsenal at the weekend to signal the premature dusting off of champagne bottles in the red half of Manchester.
United looked like they believed their 20th title was all wrapped up in a dreadful first-half display at Wigan and a surprisingly calm Ferguson pulled no punches after Shaun Maloney’s strike had sent the hosts out of the drop zone.
“It was a disappointing night for us, we were really second to every ball in the first half,” Ferguson said. “The first half we were completely dominated. Wigan were the better team and deserved to win.”
Wigan enjoyed a bright start and Ferguson looked worried, berating Wayne Rooney from the touchline on one occasion as United looked as lackluster as they have all season.
Controversy struck when Victor Moses thought he had nodded Wigan ahead, only for the assistant referee to harshly rule that Gary Caldwell had obstructed goalkeeper David de Gea.
Wigan were similarly stung by the officials at the weekend when Chelsea won thanks to two offside goals.
However, the hosts were not left to rue the decision this time after Maloney’s superb curling effort early in the second half.
An abject Rooney was substituted midway through the second half and United started to improve, but the closest they came was a big shout for a penalty when Maynor Figueroa appeared to handle the ball.
Wigan held out and climbed up to 17th in the table, one place and two points above the drop zone, although fellow relegation candidates Queens Park Rangers won 3-0 at home to Swansea City to stop them reaching 16th.
City took an early lead through top scorer Sergio Aguero with a low shot into the bottom corner of the net and he doubled their tally after the break when he finished off Samir Nasri’s pass.
Fellow Argentine Tevez scored soon after with a streaky effort.
Tevez had not begun a City match since refusing to warm up as a substitute at a Champions League match in September last year. A long standoff and failed attempts to sell him ended in his apology and reintegration into the squad.
David Silva, off the boil in recent weeks, rediscovered his mojo to score a fourth as classy City celebrated news of United losing.
Arsenal strengthened their hold on third spot and an automatic Champions League berth with a 3-0 win at 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers, who prop up the table and look doomed to relegation.