Will Wigan shock the champs?
What better way for Owen Coyle, the new boss of Wigan Athletic, to properly announce his presence than with a victory over the Premier League champions, Manchester United, in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.
And could there be a worse start to David Moyes’ tenure as United’s manager than a defeat to a Championship side in the season’s traditional curtain-raiser? It’s one of those games: one team has little to gain, the other nothing to lose.
And though the bookies’ odds would suggest otherwise – Coral go 1/4 United, 11/1 Wigan, 9/2 the draw – a Latics win is by no means out of the question. On paper, they had just as little right to beat Man City in the FA Cup Final last May, but not only did they manage to pull off a famous victory, they were, by common consensus, the better side on the day.
Coyle has lost some key players in the summer, but has made some eye-catching signings of his own, including goalkeeper Scott Carson, Republic of Ireland international winger James McClean and striker Grant Holt, immediately on the scoresheet in Wigan’s impressive 4-0 away win at Barnsley last weekend.
And they have managed to hold on to many of their best players, including James McCarthy and Callum McManaman, although those two continue to be coveted by several Premiership clubs.
United have been quieter in the market (so far at least), Old Trafford seemingly most preoccupied at the moment with whether Wayne Rooney stays or leaves. They haven’t exactly been tearing trees down on the pitch, either, although evidence from pre-season friendlies has very limited value.
The Reds have enough quality all over the pitch to take care of the most spirited of Championship sides in normal circumstances, with or without injury doubt Rooney, but this isn’t quite normal. Moyes is still finding his feet, and it is fair to suggest that the players may not be quite as match-sharp as their opponents, whose season is already under way.
It will be a huge feather in Coyle’s cap if Wigan can put one over on their wealthy neighbours and the players will be up for it big time. Of course, they are not in the same league as United, quite literally now, but it’s amazing how much can be achieved with application and desire.
For those anticipating a routine United win, 2-0 would seem a likely scoreline (6/1 with Coral). Robin Van Persie is 3/1 to net first for them, although poacher Javier Hernandez is perhaps a better bet at 4/1 to open the scoring if he plays from the start.
But for those sensing an upset, 33/1 a 1-0 Wigan win will be tempting. Holt is 8/1 to score first for the underdogs, but perhaps history might repeat itself and it will be FA Cup hero Ben Watson (16/1) who is again destined to grab the winner.
Written by Jon Freeman