- The first goal in top versus bottom matches generally has a bearing on the rest of the match. West Brom managed to score within two minutes of the start and from that point onwards, their original plan to defend en masse and try to frustrate United made more sense because they had something to defend, a one-nil lead. United looked subdued throughout the whole match and particularly in the first half, when they could not exert any meaningful pressure on the West Brom defence, until Fernandes scored a gem of a goal out of nowhere just before half time. One would have thought that a second half onslaught would have yielded all three points for United but the West Brom players held on and the United chances were few and far between. This was a typical match where you need a bit of luck and some key moments to go your way but today was not one of those days for United. I mention three incidents which could have given the win to United if they went their way. The West Brom goal was a certain foul by the scorer, putting his hand in the face of Lindelof to clearly impede him from getting to the ball but for some reason, not even the VAR felt it was worth a review by the on-field ref. A penalty kick given by the referee for a foul on Maguire in the second half was overturned after the referee watched it again on screen, when I’ve seen them given more often than not. Finally, a Maguire header deep into injury time was turned onto the post by the feintest of a fingertip touch by ex-United keeper Sam Johnstone. That said, West Brom probably deserved to get something out of this match because they were disciplined and United did not create enough to win it.
- Looking at the stats, United have won just one match from the last five played in the league. They lost one and drew the other three. If a team wants to win the league – or even to place in the Champions League spots – it is a cause of concern. Indeed, United have the worst record over the last five matches from the top eight teams in the table, aside from Liverpool, with six points from a possible fifteen. The ones that hurt me most are the loss to Sheffield United and the draw today against West Brom. Is it a case of hitting the panic button? Not at all, but it is certainly a case of resting some players who are tired, off form or not performing at the level expected from them. Martial should sit out the next matches and Greenwood given an extended run. I think De Gea is in the same bracket. Henderson needs to be given the opportunity to assert himself or not. He deserves to get four or five matches on the trot. If not now, then when?
- I have always admired Ole for the use of the squad this season, maybe against the views of many United fans. I think it’s important though that the Manager, if he has faith in the squad, then he must use it for many reasons. Players are fresh, you get less injuries to players, you create a sense of competition for places and every player in the squad tries harder in training to show the manager he deserves a chance. Today was a match where I thought that Ole needed to pick some players from the squad and start them in the first eleven. Henderson in goal is more assuring than De Gea in coming out of goal for set pieces and Ole knew that West Brom would try to make the most from set pieces. Ole also knew that West Brom would defend with 10 players behind the ball. Without Paul Pogba, United need more than Fernandes in these matches to create enough chances to win such matches. I have never been his biggest fan but these are the sort of matches where Mata would be invaluable. His ability to find a pass and his nous to find spaces in and around the area are rare in the United team. Maybe, I am repeating myself from the Sheffield loss but I feel it is appropriate to highlight this point. Maybe you don’t agree…
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Article contributed by Contributor Roderick. Comments are appreciated on our Facebook page.