Erik ten Hag admitted his Manchester United side should have scored more goals after they eased into the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over League One Wigan.
United had 33 attempts at goal, 14 of them on target, but in the end only managed to beat Latics’ impressive young goalkeeper Sam Tickle twice, first with Diogo Dalot’s 22nd-minute curling shot and then with a 74th-minute penalty from Bruno Fernandes.
Rasmus Hojlund and Alejandro Garnacho both hit the crossbar while Marcus Rashford brought some fine saves out of Tickle, but this was the 18th out of 23 domestic games in which United’s forwards failed to find the net.
“It’s all about the win but first half, the way we played, the performance, how we worked the ball, how we made our runs, the investment in the final third, we created a lot of chances and that was pleasing to see,” Ten Hag said.
“I think we should have scored more but the good thing is we created the chances.”
After a December in which United lost six of nine to increase the pressure on Ten Hag, the manager could not afford a slip-up and that showed in a team selection in which he made only two changes, one of them the return of Hojlund from illness.
Antony was out through injury while Christian Eriksen was ill, with Scott McTominay replacing the Dane.
“We have so many injuries and illnesses but still we put out a strong side,” Ten Hag added. “We had a good team, so we were confident before, we must win this game.
“You never underestimate any opponent, definitely not this side, you know they will fight for their life because it’s the game of their life, we took the game very good.”
Wigan had a superb early chance to take the lead with a quick break down the right, but goalkeeper Andre Onana denied Thelo Aasgaard from close range, and they would not have such a clear opportunity again.
“I think it’s a good save,” said Liverpool-born Norway youth international Aasgaard. “If it was on my right side I’d have the confidence to lift it but the keeper’s got down. It didn’t knock my confidence or anything. It was a good save.”
Wigan boss Shaun Maloney, the goal-scorer the only time Wigan have ever beaten United in a competitive fixture back in 2012, acknowledged that the moment could have changed the night, but admitted his side were well beaten.
“It might change the dynamic at that time in the game,” Maloney said. “United had some chances as well. We have to take a lot from it. Some of our players individually had really good performances. It is never nice to get beat but I hope we take a lot from it.
“In terms of effort, I’m very, very proud of what the players gave, it was a difficult match. United played very well. They’re a difficult opponent with the ball, we tried to be as aggressive as we could.
“We found it tough, I couldn’t criticise my players. We needed some good saves from the goalkeeper.”
Wigan had kept themselves in the game until Liam Shaw caught the toe of Fernandes with a little over 15 minutes left, and the United captain’s reaction made sure Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot.
“At the time I wasn’t so sure but what I would say is I’ve seen a slow motion (replay) and I think when you tackle like that and there is contact it’s going to be a penalty,” Maloney said. “I’ve got no complaints.”