Manchester United earned their second consecutive win against Crystal Palace with a late goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a Paul Pogba masterclass, but ultimately, United will need to win six or seven more in succession before they will be sprung back into contention for the Premier League. That being said, United looked very promising on the day with some great football, worthy of four goals (though two were denied by the referee) and an obvious win. Now, United faces another difficult trip to the Hawthorns, where they will take on seventh-placed West Brom, a stingy defensive side with the right attacking talents to beat United. The outcome of the match will likely be determined by the following four players.
Salomon Rondon, Striker, West Brom
As mentioned in my previous “Four Players to Watch” article, for the Crystal Palace game, Christian Benteke and Rondon represent great challenges for Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones as Jose Mourinho tries to figure out just how good they are. My point was only further validated by Rondon’s hat-trick for West Brom to send them above Swansea, proving that the physical striker can produce top-drawer performances. In the past and in other leagues, talents like Rondon would receive recognition, but he gets almost none at West Brom because every side in the Premier League has tough talents that can hurt opposition. The Venezuelan international, who has made almost 60 appearances for his country, has earned 7 goals and 2 assists in just 16 matches, which, considering the service one would receive at West Brom, is more than respectable.
Nacer Chadli, Winger, West Brom
While Rondon represents a notable threat for West Brom, Nacer Chadli is the creative outlet that has changed the way Tony Pulis plays his football. Pulis’ pragmatic style saw West Brom struggle to score goals and use 1-0 wins to avoid relegation, but now, with Chadli, West Brom has become a reputable attacking outfit, even breaking into the top 10 and scoring a fair amount of goals.
Since arriving at West Brom from Tottenham, Chadli has earned four goals and two assists in just 11 appearances, prompting Spurs fans to question why he was sold from the setup and replaced with Moussa Sissoko. Able to provide natural width, a scoring threat and the ability to cut inside, Chadli’s stature allows him to manoeuvre his way around the opposition and find himself in good scoring positions. If he can do this against United, the Belgian international undoubtedly has a good chance of getting behind Michael Carrick.
Anthony Martial, Winger, Manchester United
Manchester United’s Anthony Martial will likely be handed the dribbling baton with the gifted Henrikh Mkhitaryan absent from the match through injury, and we all know the Frenchman has the ability to succeed in the circumstances. That being said, Martial has failed to replicate last season’s outstanding success since leaving for the Euros. Now could be the Frenchman’s chance to earn his place in the United side on a permanent basis again, because he is still arguably the Red Devils’ most important player.
Whether he scores goals or not, Martial is always a player to watch because he is electric and can set the defence on fire in an instant. Martial’s gifted skill-set is comparable to that of Eden Hazard, and his physique on the ball allows him to carry it past his opponents with ease. Martial could find joy against West Brom, dipping in to try and expose West Brom’s defence between the channels.
Phil Jones, Central Defender, Manchester United
Once again, I have to choose a defender, because if Jones can deal with the threat of Rondon, physicality will no longer be a problem for United’s back four. Crystal Palace’s wonder goal shouldn’t discourage Jones and Rojo, who were left in admiration of Palace’s efforts, and Sunday’s match against a West Brom side that won’t attack much should be interesting. Jones is emerging as a leading defender with Eric Bailly’s injury layoffs, and this could be the time for Jones to raise his stock and make himself an irreplaceable part of the first team.