Manchester United host Championship side Wigan Athletic in the fourth round of the FA Cup, following another cup tie that saw them qualify for the EFL Cup final. Jose Mourinho chose to give some key players a rest, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera only making the bench, and Paul Pogba was omitted from the squad entirely, among others. Rare starting spots were given to Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Bastian Schweinsteiger, while Luke Shaw makes his first appearance since November.
United started the game in slow fashion, playing “possession” football in a failed attempt in breaking down a Wigan team defending in numbers. Henrikh Mkhitaryan missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring before Marouane Fellaini did the job by heading in an early Schweinsteiger cross. United then came to life in the second half, and the goals started pouring in. Chris Smalling headed in an Anthony Martial cross to double the lead before Martial got his second assist when he set up Mkhitaryan for United’s third to cap off a counter-attacking move. Then Schweinsteiger rounded off United’s win with a lovely improvised finish following a corner kick.
Martial started the game in the middle and was ineffective, but grew into the game in the second half, and this re-energised not just him, but the whole United attack. He was isolated down the middle and thrived with getting more of the ball as he began to drift wide. United’s fluid attacking four only began to flow once Martial kicked into gear, and that is reflected in his two assists, particularly his second.
While United’s attack was limp in the first half, the one player looking to make things happen then was Mkhitaryan, and once United’s attack fired up in the second, it was no surprise that he got on the score sheet. He also made a point of tracking back to defend on occasion. Not a performance to remember compared to others he’s made this season, but still worthy of praise.
In midfield, credit has to go to Schweinsteiger for his efforts. He had clumsy and shaky moments, especially in the first half, but showed good aggression in midfield, as well as keeping and distributing possession well. But the kicker is definitely his assist to open the scoring, a great early cross, as well as a clever goal at the end.
With the scoreline the way it is, it’s a bit of a surprise to not see any brilliant individual performances. The players mentioned above didn’t have great overall performances as much they had average ones with standout moments sprinkled around. But while both Martial and Mkhitaryan were ineffective in their down times, Schweinsteiger continued doing his job in a quiet and mostly composed manner. He showed some rust from his lack of games at times, but a deserved Man of the Match in the end.