WIGAN, United Kingdom — Manchester United eased the pressure on manager Erik ten Hag by ensuring there was no FA Cup third round shock in a 2-0 win at League One Wigan on Monday.
Diogo Dalot’s first-half strike and a controversial penalty from Bruno Fernandes secured United’s first away win since November.
The Red Devils were also handed a favourable fourth round draw against either non-league Eastleigh or Newport County of League Two in Monday’s draw.
This competition represents United’s final shot at silverware this season and could prove a lifeline for Ten Hag with his side struggling in the Premier League and already dumped out of Europe.
“The FA Cup is all about winning, it is knockout. You want to finish the job,” said Ten Hag.
“That is what I said in the dressing room: ‘job done’.”
The visitors were rarely troubled at the DW Stadium bar an early effort from Thelo Aasgaard that tested Andre Onana, who had stayed behind for two more United matches before heading off for Cameroon’s Africa Cup of Nations campaign.
United slowly started to take control as Sam Tickle produced a brilliant save to deny Marcus Rashford before Scott McTominay prodded inches wide.
Rashford has shown flashes of finding his form in recent weeks and it was from the England international’s pass that Dalot curled into the far corner on 22 minutes.
United should have had the tie wrapped up by half-time as Rasmus Hojlund thundered a header off the crossbar before Alejandro Garnacho’s speculative effort also came back off the woodwork.
“In the first half I think we created five or six very good chances. I think it was very good football,” added Ten Hag.
“We should have taken more, but if you don’t score you have to stay focused and I think we did that tonight.”
When the second goal did finally come 16 minutes from time, Wigan felt aggrieved as Fernandes made the most of minimal contact from Liam Shaw.
Fernandes rubbed salt into the home side’s wounds as he then coolly dispatched the resulting penalty to ward off any remaining hope of a giant killing.
Next up United will aim to take some positive momentum into their two-week Premier League winter break when Tottenham visit Old Trafford on Sunday.
Ten Hag’s men desperately need to win to close a nine-point gap on the top four if they are to maintain aspirations of returning to the Champions League next season.
And the Dutch coach believes there is a fresh air of optimism around the club following British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s acquisition of a 25 percent stake in the club.
“It is an inspiration. Everyone is optimistic. There is a lot of work to do,” said Ten Hag.
“It is a journey, it is a project and now we have had to deal with some setbacks but we will keep alive, survive it and strike back.” — AFP