On a weekend of FA Cup shocks, Manchester United managed to avoid the fate of Liverpool, Hull City and various others. They put four past Championship side Wigan Athletic, a scoreline that frankly flattered the home side but will have done plenty for the morale of some of Jose Mourinho's squad players.
It would be inaccurate to suggest that nothing happened in the first 43 minutes of the game. Plenty happened. Wayne Rooney shouted at Luke Shaw for not overlapping, Henrikh Mkhitaryan missed from a couple of yards out, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, busy and eager, ran forty yards across the pitch and barged an opponent over with his shoulder. But there wasn't much football.
Credit to Wigan, who kept their shape well and kept United from getting in behind. But Anthony Martial looked every inch a player who suspects his manager hates him, and Wayne Rooney might as well have been wearing the ceremonial gold boot he was given before kick-off. In midfield, meanwhile, Marouane Fellaini and Bastian Schweinsteiger embodied United's performance — they were sloppy, stodgy, and slow.
So, naturally, they combined for the opening goal. As half-time approached, United were shuffling the ball from side to side and Old Trafford was getting antsy. But Fellaini isolated young defender Callum Connolly at the far post, Schweinsteiger found him with a booming cross from deep, and the big Belgian nodded home. The tension flowed out of Old Trafford like custard from a balloon.
Wigan had precisely one chance in the second half to make the game interesting, after Romero came for a cross, clawed the ball, and sent it straight to the feet of a lurking opponent. Luckily for United's second-choice keeper, the return shot was low and central, and he was able to stab clear.
Three minutes later, Martial shimmied his hips on the edge of the box, dismissed his marker, and clipped a perfect cross onto the forehead of a leaping Chris Smalling. The central defender crashed his header home, doubling United's lead and killing the game.
United added two more later on, as Wigan's spirit and energy drained away. Martial, much improved in the second half, rounded off a galloping counter-attack by rolling the ball across the box for Mkhitaryan. Then Schweinsteiger, seizing his moment, hooked an overhead kick into the net from six yards out, after Wigan's marking from a corner dissolved. Even Mourinho managed to crack a smile at that.
United's manager took advantage of the occasion to hand debuts to two more youth products, Axel Tuanzebe and Joel Pereira, and will be delighted that United remain alive in four competitions. Now United need to take carry that second half performance through into the Premier League. And everybody needs to pretend that the first half never happened.