WIGAN, May 14 – Manchester United moved to within a point of a third consecutive Premier League title with a 2-1 comeback win over Steve Bruce's Wigan here on Wednesday.Second-half goals from inspirational substitute Carlos Tevez and Michael Carrick overturned a first-half opener from the home side’s Hugo Rodallega, meaning United will win their 18th English title if they take a point from either of their two remaining matches, against Arsenal at Old Trafford on Saturday or away to Hull on May 24.
But they know they almost suffered a serious setback at the JJB Stadium as they came up against a spirited and well-drilled Wigan side who attacked at every opportunity.
Wigan had not won in six matches going into this encounter but were a comfortable – if not surprising – match for the visitors throughout and were the first to go forward after just 90 seconds.
Colombian Rodallega headed a throw-in over United’s Jonny Evans which allowed Antonio Valencia to then skip past Nemanja Vidic.
He sped into the box unmarked but shot wide from a good position after Vidic had managed to sprint back and put him off.
United seemed sluggish early on but finally ignited in the 10th minute when they could have scored twice in less than 60 seconds.
Following some superbly fluent passing, Dimitar Berbatov crossed from the right byline but Wayne Rooney could not steer his header on target despite being completely unmarked four metres out.
Within a minute of that action, some slick one-touch football between Rooney, Paul Scholes and Berbatov helped to release Cristiano Ronaldo down the right and his incisive pass back inside was met by Carrick but he shot over.
Valencia then had another fine opportunity courtesy of a free-kick on the edge of the box and although his curling effort was heading for the top corner, United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar managed to punch it clear at full stretch.
Any United fans believing Wigan would merely lie-down were in for a disappointment and Wigan proved that on 28 minutes as they took the lead.
Lee Cattermole launched the ball into the United penalty area where Rodallega challenged Vidic in the air and after the Serbian defender slipped, the ball fell for the Wigan frontman who slotted comfortably past van der Sar.
Just before half-time, United strung together another sequence of fine passes until the ball finally worked its way to Rooney inside the box but with only goalkeeper Richard Kingson to beat, Rooney smashed the ball well over the crossbar.
Wigan then emulated the visitors by moving the ball from one of the field to the other thanks to link-up play by Cattermole and Charles N’Zogbia but Rodallega could not make the move pay off as he finally shot wide.
The match kept up its breathless pace after the interval with Rooney believing he was due a penalty following a sliding challenge from Paul Scharner close to the penalty spot but his claims were waved away.
Tevez then replaced Andersen after 58 minutes and within three minutes of his introduction, the striker made the crucial intervention that United were looking for.
Carrick hit a poor shot across the box which was going comfortably wide until Tevez managed to cleverly backheel the ball in the opposite direction, leaving Kingson little chance.
A draw looked the more likely prospect but United are justifiably renowned for their ability to turn matches late on and so it proved again.
With just three minutes remaining, John O’Shea passed to Carrick on the edge of the box and he struck a controlled left-foot drive into the top corner for an emphatic winner.