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Last Updated: Monday, 27 February 2006, 09:45 GMT
Rooney ruins Wigan fairytale
By Dan Warren
BBC Sport at the Millennium Stadium

Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring at the Millennium Stadium
Goliath, in the form of Rooney, proved too strong on Sunday
Wigan boss Paul Jewell almost had it right when, as he contemplated Manchester United's 4-0 Carling Cup final savaging of his side, he said: "It was like a David against Goliath match."

It was - except this time Goliath won.

Easily.

But then, the omens suggesting that Sunday's match would not follow the fairytale script from which Wigan seem to have been reading this season were there from the start.

Minutes before the start, in front of the Latics' fans, a massive inflatable cylinder - used to blow up an enormous flag bearing the club's badge - simply refused to deflate.

Simultaneously, at the other end, a similar device displaying Manchester United's crest was removed in businesslike fashion.

It seemed, unwittingly, to set the tone for the afternoon. While Wigan misfired, United were like a well-oiled machine.

Maybe 4-0 was a generous margin of victory - but it was also reward for a brutally efficient display.

That the Latics' cup dream seemed destined to end with a very rude awakening was further demonstrated by the cruel fate of keeper Mike Pollitt.

The 33-year-old was a hero at Highbury in January when he saved a penalty from Arsenal's Jose Antonio Reyes in the semi-final.

Pollitt, a veteran of 12 clubs, had earned the right to play in what Jewell called "the biggest game of his life".

Yet just three minutes in he pulled up with hamstring trouble and barely 10 minutes later was forced to leave. His body language as he left the field said everything.

Rooney now has some silverware to add to the Sunday league title he won while playing for Copplehouse Under-13s in Liverpool

Wigan, who have so often confounded predictions this season, suddenly found themselves in the middle of a rather more familiar tale.

This was to be Manchester United's day of glory and their star player, of course, was the inspired Wayne Rooney.

In fact, maybe Rooney was the Goliath to whom Jewell ruefully referred after the match.

Double goalscorer, woodwork hitter, tireless runner, strong tackler - the youngster was immense in every sense.

He fills whichever big stage he is gracing - a fact which will not have been lost on any watching England fans.

It was a surprise to learn that his brace of goals were his first in almost two months.

On the evidence of his performance in Cardiff, you would think he notched at least twice in every game.

At least he now has some silverware to add to the Sunday league title he won while playing for Copplehouse Under-13s in Liverpool.

Wigan keeper Mike Pollitt look distraught as he realises he will not be able to play on
Wigan keeper Pollitt had his big day ruined by an early injury

Louis Saha - controversially picked ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy - and Cristiano Ronaldo weighed in to complete the rout, although even United boss Sir Alex Ferguson felt the scoreline did not reflect Wigan's contribution to the match.

Indeed, had Henri Camara's shot levelled matters at the start of the second half, the fairytale may yet have come true.

That it was not to be, however, should not detract from Wigan's extraordinary Carling Cup run.

The Latics' rise has been one of the more remarkable football stories of recent times and it was Jewell who provided some context for his side's achievements.

"We thought we might have caught United on a bad day - after all they've slipped. They're only the second richest club in the world," he quipped.

And no-one can deny that reaching the final is a significant achievement, particularly for a side dumped out in the first round by Grimsby last season.

Jewell still has one chance to rewrite his David and Goliath story, however.

In one of those fixture computer quirks, Manchester United are Wigan's next opponents on 6 March.

But having faced them four times as a manager - and been on the wrong end of a 4-0 loss four times - he may well shudder at the prospect.



SEE ALSO
Man Utd ease to Carling Cup glory
26 Feb 06 |  League Cup
Jewell admits to being outclassed
26 Feb 06 |  Wigan Athletic
Ferguson seeks cup silver lining
24 Feb 06 |  Man Utd
Jewell calls for players to focus
24 Feb 06 |  Wigan Athletic


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