Shaun Maloney was part of the Wigan side that stunned City to win the FA Cup… now the Latics boss wants to shock the red half of Manchester too when his side take on United in the third round

4 January 2024 0 By Total Football News
  • Ben Watson scored the only goal of the game in that memorable 2013 final
  • The FA Cup success is Wigan Athletics only major trophy in their 92 years 
  • Sunderland could be the catalyst for real pressure to engulf Eddie Howe – It’s All Kicking Off 

It is a moment that sums up the essence of the FA Cup. May 11, 2013, and Wigan — whose owner Dave Whelan had seen his own FA Cup dream ruined 53 years earlier after breaking his leg in the final — were level with a star-studded Manchester City side.

After 91 goalless minutes, Shaun Maloney whipped in a corner which Ben Watson attacked and powered past Joe Hart.

Half of Wembley and the whole population of the Greater Manchester town erupted before Roberto Martinez’s side held on to secure a famous FA Cup final triumph and Wigan’s first — and to date, only — major trophy.

‘It was an amazing moment for this club,’ Maloney, now manager of the League One side who play Manchester United in the third round on Monday, tells Mail Sport. ‘We all remember Wimbledon beating Liverpool, so those two matches stand out as the biggest upsets for me.

‘We had the 10-year anniversary in the summer and the majority of the players and Roberto came back which was great and it’s really difficult to walk anywhere at this club without seeing a picture of Ben Watson.’

Ben Watson's header powered past Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart at Wembley in 2013

Ben Watson’s header powered past Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart at Wembley in 2013

Current boss Shaun Maloney was part of the Wigan side that beat Man City on that memorable day

But how did Wigan, who were relegated from the top flight a few days later, overcome their underdog status to topple the previous year’s Premier League champions? 

‘We played them a few weeks before and should’ve won. Carlos Tevez scored an incredible goal, but we missed chances and knew if we played as well as that night and executed what Roberto was teaching us, we had a chance.

‘In these games against bigger teams with bigger resources, there are always moments when your players just have to be exceptional. Joel Robles made an incredible save, Callum McManaman was the best player on the pitch and then you have a moment like Ben. On that day, we had those exceptional moments at the right time.’

Maloney, a cultured midfielder, retired in 2017 and spent a period coaching at Celtic before he received a call from Belgium manager Martinez to join him.

There, he worked with stars such as Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard, and he also crossed paths with Thierry Henry, an experience he will forever cherish. 

‘It was incredible. I had come from Celtic’s B team to a side who had some of the best players in the world. I’ll be forever grateful to them as people because they were so respectful, humble, hard-working and amazing to be with,’ he says.

‘The mentality was the biggest thing. Some of the pitches we’d train on away from Belgium were very difficult, we had planes delayed for hours, but never once did I hear them complain and they were ready to do whatever it took to win.’

Maloney then made the decision to go out on his own but endured a difficult 19-game spell in charge at Hibernian. The Scot returned to Wigan last January and is doing a stellar job amid a myriad of off-field problems. 

The Latics come up against a Manchester United side that are in a tough run of form

The Latics come up against a Manchester United side that are in a tough run of form

Maloney returned to the dugout at Wigan after a difficult 19-game spell at Hibernian

Maloney returned to the dugout at Wigan after a difficult 19-game spell at Hibernian

The Latics almost went under in the summer due to financial troubles and began this season on minus eight points after having three deducted last season.

Local businessman Mike Danson stepped in to save the club and thanks to him, and Maloney’s impressive work, stability has been restored.

‘No course that I did would ever prepare me for it,’ adds the 40-year-old. ‘It was a really unpredictable time where the financial situation became so dire I expected the club to no longer be here. It was the hardest and most difficult period I’ve ever had in my career.’

Given everything the club and its supporters have faced, a money-spinning home tie in the FA Cup third round against Manchester United is the least they deserve.

‘The last six months have been so difficult so to have this opportunity to play such a historic club is a big reward.’

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

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Maloney has his own history with United. He was a boyhood fan but scored a crucial winner against them during the final throes of the 2011-12 season when the Red Devils missed out on the title to City on goal difference.

‘I remember that game vividly. That was an incredible United team. It is one of the only games in my career where I’ve played against a team of that size and history and we’ve played that well or dominated in a half of football. It was an amazing performance.’

Despite the huge task facing Wigan on Monday, Maloney, a keen tennis player in his teens who played against Andy Murray in the same regional competitions in Scotland, will not be fearful.

‘I have to come up with a strategy that makes it as difficult as possible for United but still imposes us on the game,’ he said. ‘Everyone at this club always speaks about the FA Cup win, but there have been moments since and the game against United is a chance to create our own piece of history.’