Wigan boss Steve Bruce has laughed off suggestions that his team will give anything less than their best when they play Manchester United in the crucial final game of the season this afternoon at the JJB.
Bruce, who lifted the Premier League trophy three times as captain of United, making himself an Old Trafford legend in the process, is insulted by any suggestion that he will take it in any way easy on his old club. United, of course, will win the title with a victory over Wigan, who having ensured their safety have seemingly nothing to play for.
When the suggestion was made to him Bruce said: “Everybody who knows me knows me better than that. What am I going to say to the team? ‘Just roll over and let Man United win’? That’s not going to happen. Make no mistake, we’ll be trying our utmost.”
WiganÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fortunes against the top four clubs in the Premier League have improved considerably since Bruce took over. After suffering a run of 20 straight league defeats to the “big four” after their promotion to the big league, Bruce has recently seen them draw with Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. A similar result this afternoon will hand the title to Chelsea if they manage to beat Bolton at Stamford Bridge, as expected.
Looking at past history, the omens are not terribly good for Bruce and Wigan as in nine attempts as Birmingham boss he never managed to beat his old club and United have won all six of their league and cup games against Wigan, scoring 20 goals in the process.
Financially, the game is relatively crucial to Wigan who currently sit in thirteenth place. A defeat could see them drop to fifteenth which would cost them a considerable amount of prize money. That might not make the game as crucial to Wigan as it is to Manchester United, but it does add some significance to the Latics.
In reality, finances do not come into it, however, as this will all be a matter of pride and competitiveness. You do not get to be a successful player or manager without being fiercely competitive. A hatred of losing is what drives most top sports people to success as well as the obvious love of winning. The mere suggestion that a man like Steve Bruce would be happy to lose is laughable in the extreme.
The media absolutely love a conspiracy theory and United needing a victory against the team managed by their former captain is a real present for the mischief makers in the press. Following on from the furore that surrounded West Ham boss Alan CurbishleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s comments that he thought United should win the title, prior to West HamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s trip to Old Trafford, the theorists are beside themselves with excitement.
I strongly believe that we need to put a stop to this nonsense once and for all. Rest assured that Wigan and Steve Bruce will be doing everything in their power to beat Manchester United. Despite the 4-1 reverse, West Ham did what they could to get a result at Old Trafford last week. Teams in the Premier League simply do not do Ã¢â‚¬ËœfavoursÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ for each other. It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen.
After the game, if Wigan manage to prevent United from winning the title, I am sure that when the euphoria of gaining a creditable result dies away, a small part of Brucie will be disappointed that United had finished second. It will be a small part and not one that he will dwell on. It wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be the game at Wigan that cost them, it would be the result of the entire season. Equally, if United beat Wigan, Bruce will be disappointed. End of story.
I just hope that if United win, it isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t through an own goal or a dreadful mistake by one of the Wigan players. Should something happen like the infamous occasion when Cardiff beat Arsenal in the FA Cup Final and ArsenalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Welsh goalkeeper seemed to throw the ball in his own net, then the build up of inferences being made in certain areas of the press will reach boiling point.
After what has happened in Italy and the ongoing corruption investigation in England we all need to know that the Premier League is totally above suspicion and is seen to be totally above suspicion.
I remain 100% convinced that it is, but I just hope that it is still completely obvious after the games this afternoon. Unless Steve Bruce runs on to the pitch and scores a goal for United himself, I will not be prepared to reconsider my position!
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