Martinez plays part in season of shocks

Belief is the key to beating big teams, according to Wigan's manager, and Aston Villa will be looking to follow their lead today

It was not just the result, but the manner of it which caught the eye. When Wigan Athletic beat Manchester United in midweek for the first time in the club's history all agreed, Sir Alex Ferguson included, that the victory was fully merited.

Wigan kept and passed the ball better than their exalted neighbours, they had more shots, more corners and fewer bookings. "In the first 20 minutes we had 73 per cent of the ball," said Roberto Martinez proudly.

Given United had won all 14 previous meetings, each of which had come in the last seven years, that Wigan's players were confident enough to retain the ball so well was an achievement in itself. It was not a one-off either, Wigan had 50 per cent of possession at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, when two erroneous offside decisions undid them at Chelsea, and will seek to match Arsenal for possession at the Emirates tomorrow night.

This, said Martinez when he spoke in Manchester this week, was the realisation of a goal he set himself when he returned to Wigan as manager in 2009. "When I arrived at Wigan we had not beaten any of the top four and there was a mental block, a lack of belief that we were allowed to beat them. When you are playing the biggest teams, going to Stamford Bridge or the Emirates, playing Manchester United, you need to be yourself. The opposition will have real quality and will have the ball for long periods, but that does not mean you do not be yourself when you get the ball." It is advice which might be followed by Aston Villa at Old Trafford today, as well as Wigan tomorrow.

"Arrogance" is the word Martinez uses, though "self-belief" might be a more accurate definition. It means, he added, having the confidence to ignore the League table, to reject the old philosophy of keeping the score down, taking the top teams on instead.

"Away from home, convincing players they can beat top teams has been a target," said Martinez, "not just stopping the opposition, but playing yourself too. We went to White Hart Lane and won last year but it was a bit more of a well-organised performance and play on the counterattack. Liverpool this season and Stamford Bridge were completely different. I was really pleased because just as sometimes your position in the table gives you belief and confidence, sometimes it can stop you doing things.

"There is a real feeling [among clubs now] of being brave, of trying to win the game, not settling for damage limitation, which you saw a few years back. That is a sign the league is developing. For me the Premier League is the best in the world because of the different styles of football, anyone can beat anyone on their day."

One benchmark to judge how the League's strength has developed is Wednesday's Champions' League semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona. Martinez, a Catalan by birth but now much Anglicised, said: "La Liga has the two best clubs in the world, but third is 23 points behind. I prefer the Premier League.

"If Chelsea win, we [the Premier League] would earn a lot of respect. It is possible. Chelsea, with the experience they have in their ranks, can make it very difficult for Barcelona at Stamford Bridge. I expect Chelsea to impose themselves on Barcelona and not many teams will do that. But realistically they need a two-goal lead because playing the second leg in the Nou Camp is a disadvantage."

Before following that match as an interested observer, Martinez must first try and outwit Arsène Wenger, a manager he regards as a role model "not because he is also a foreigner, but because of his philosophy. Sometimes we feel we have to spend big money to buy trophies but there is another way which is investing in characters and good young players. He has been a master at doing that.''

Fulham, Newcastle, Blackburn and Wolves make up the rest of Wigan's run-in and Martinez, whose team survived with a last-day victory at Stoke a year ago, expects the relegation issue to go to the final day again.

"Everyone can win games, even Wolves, look at the fight they showed against Arsenal. No one enjoys relegation scraps, and we've been there for a long time, but my team plays with no fear and I enjoy that. When I came to Wigan [as a player] in 1995 the dream was to get a new stadium and to get into the Premier League. Now we're playing teams like Manchester United. That's a real source of pride."

Martinez is too modest to add that now Wigan are beating Manchester United that pride is even greater.

Manchester United v Aston Villa is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pm; Arsenal v Wigan is on Sky Sports 1 tomorrow, kick-off 8pm

Turning the tables

17 Sept 2011, Blackburn 4-3 Arsenal Two own goals from the Gunners.

23 Oct 2011, QPR 1-0 Chelsea Didier Drogba and Jose Bosingwa sent off.

31 Dec 2011, Man Utd 2-3 Blackburn Late mistake by keeper David De Gea.

1 Jan 2012, Sunderland 1-0 Man City Ji Dong-won's late goal looks offside.

4 Jan 2012, Newcastle 3-0 Man Utd Back to back league defeats for United.

31 Jan 2012, Everton 1-0 Man City Darron Gibson, ex-United, fires home.

11 Feb 2012, Everton 2-0 Chelsea Merseysiders win emphatically again.

3 March 2012, West Brom 1-0 Chelsea Andre Villas-Boas is sacked next day.

11 March 2012, Swansea 1-0 Man City Luke Moore scores with 10 minutes left.

21 March 2012, QPR 3-2 Liverpool Visitors throw away two-goal lead in last 15 minutes.

24 March 2012, Liverpool 1-2 Wigan Captain Gary Caldwell scores winner.

31 March 2012, Man City 3-3 Sunderland Two goals in final five minutes earn City a fortuitous draw.

31 March, QPR 2 Arsenal 1 Samba Diakité scores against the run of play.

11 April 2012, Wigan 1-0 Man Utd Relegation strugglers win comfortably.

Alex Horlock

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice