The Latics famously beat City in the final of this competition back in May under the guidance of former boss Roberto Martinez and will now return to Wembley less than 12 months later after becoming only the fourth side to win at the Etihad this season.
This time it was former City striker Uwe Rosler who masterminded the victory and in far more difficult circumstances than his predecessor. Whereas Martinez's side edged a City team at a low ebb as Roberto Mancini's tenure came to a stuttering end, Rosler's Wigan outplayed them on their own patch seven days after they lifted the League Cup for the first time in 38 years.
It was a fantastic performance from the away side, who thoroughly deserve to progress.
"We finished one trophy and we won it, now we have to continue playing Champions League and Premier League—we have a lot to fight for," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said in his aftermatch press conference. "We must try to win in Barcelona—then we must try to reach the top of the table with our three games in hand."
Rosler was afforded a wonderful reception before the match, and it was clear soon after it began that tactically he had it spot on. A three-man defence squeezed the life out of City going forward, and not one of his players allowed their City counterparts to settle on the ball. It was a masterclass in how desire and commitment can bridge a gap in quality on a football field.
Pellegrini took a risk with his team selection, leaving out David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho—a move which backfired badly.
Wigan took the lead, rather predictably, after more recklessness from Martin Demichelis—a not unfamiliar story for City this season. He allowed Marc-Antoine Fortune to go past him too easily and then brought the Wigan man down inside the box after a mistimed challenge. Jordi Gomez dispatched the penalty, and Wigan went in at the break deservedly in front.
Demichelis has been targeted unfairly this season, scapegoated by both the media and his own fans. He's been better than many give him credit for since he arrived at City. However, his charge-sheet of clear errors is growing quickly, and he needs to improve between now and the end of the season, or City risk damaging their title chances.
Soon after half-time it was 2-0 after dithering from Gael Clichy at the back post allowed James Perch to tap home from close range. After the pre-match fanfare in recognition of last Sunday's League Cup triumph, the mood had altered drastically just over an hour later, much of which was down to Rosler's tactical ingenuity.
Wow. It's now 2-0 for Wigan at #MCFC. Perch scores barely a minute after the restart, beating Clichy to the cross— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) March 9, 2014
Wigan's second appeared to awake City from their slumber. Edin Dzeko nearly got them back in the game, but his header from a Clichy cross hit the base of the post, and moments later Sergio Aguero had a shot inside the area that went straight at Scott Carson.
It was City’s man in form, Samir Nasri, who finally got his side on the scoresheet, with a fabulous left-foot shot on the half-volley from outside the area. The atmosphere was suddenly ratcheted up a few notches as City threatened an equaliser without ever hitting their very best.
They created further chances but couldn't make the breakthrough, and it's Wigan who will now travel to Wembley for a semi-final with Arsenal. Few could argue they deserve it. Emmerson Boyce's world-class tackle that stopped Dzeko scoring typified their performance—the scenes in the away section at the end proving there’s magic left in the FA Cup.
Don't know who TV gave man of the match to but Emmerson Boyce #wafc for me. Superb. That challenge on Dzeko— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) March 9, 2014
Much of the neat passing that defined the Martinez era at Wigan was still very much in evidence; the soft centre that was often their undoing was not. On the basis of this showing, they can be confident of a playoff place come the end of the season, and they now join Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Barcelona as the only teams to have managed a victory at the Etihad this season.
This was Rosler's day, and given the brilliance him and his side showed, very few would begrudge him his success.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.
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