the spot. Justice had quickly been done, to the detriment of the mood at Old Trafford, which was understandably flattened by the spurned opportunity.
Welbeck appeared to place himself in sole charge of enlivening the crowd again, turning in a lively attacking display which gave the Wigan defence a torrid time. The England striker forced Maynor Figueroa into a vital sliding block, then cracked a superb volley just wide after Nani’s teasing, clipped cross. Twice more Welbeck came close – having a shot deflected over after nicking possession, then striking Nemanja Vidic with a goal-bound shot – before Wigan threatened for the first time as Ivan Ramis headed wide from Shaun Maloney’s out-swinging free-kick.
Emmerson Boyce then scuffed a shot narrowly wide of Anders Lindegaard’s near post as the visitors began to demonstrate their counter-attacking menace, before Welbeck headed just over from Carrick’s clipped cross. For all Welbeck’s prominence, however, it was Nani who had the Reds’ clearest open-play opening of the first period. Chicharito held the ball up and teed up Giggs to release the Portuguese winger, who fell foul of an untimely bobble as he tried to loft the ball over Al Habsi and sent his finish high into the Stretford End crowd.
A mood of frustration briefly turned to relief just before the break when Wigan spurned their own presentable chance. Jean Beausejour sent in a fine cross from the left flank which narrowly evaded Franco Di Santo but fell perfectly for Arouna Kone, who prodded wastefully wide of the target. The Ivorian missed the game’s next chance, in the first minute of the second period. Again Beausejour was the provider with a pinpoint cross, but this time Kone had to contort to direct a header comfortably off-target.