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So the latest game at Old Trafford saw Manchester United draw 0-0 once again, this time against Tony Pulis’s West Brom. A once again familiar sight for the United faithful this Saturday as the opposition set up camp early and managed to defend everything the host could throw at them. A result that sees them remain in fifth place, still five points away from the top four. A game very much lacking the influence of one of United’s missing players.
United came into this game without multiple big name players due to suspension and injury, allowing young Matty Willock to find himself included in the matchday squad for the first time. United started with a back four rather than the three at the back preferred in their last Premier League game. With Bailly and Rojo being the centre-back pairing and Ashley Young playing at left-back, this squad looked very much depleted from the start. Yet despite this United started strongly, with Anthony Martial consistently making progress down the left-hand side and causing problems.
As the first half progressed it was clear to see that United’s front line had been told to be very fluid and interchangeable, with Lingard regularly cutting inside and allowing Valencia to charge down the right-wing. this saw a lot of crosses being put into the box, something West Brom were more than happy with and dealt with comfortably. In the 25th minute, Carrick cut out a West From counter-attack and played in Lingard who drove the ball across the face of goal, with none of the other United forward’s following up. Yet despite the waves of attacks, there were very few clear-cut chances, United coming closest with Martial having a head in the 32nd minute, just off target.
The first half may have been one to snooze through but it was clear that United’s defence was trying their best to avoid any unnecessary fouls, with the first foul coming via Rojo in the 32nd minute. However, West Brom were unable to provide any viable threat from set pieces. The half ended 0-0 with United having had nine shots, and 87% pass accuracy and created six chances with their 67% possession.
The second half started with a little more excitement, Rashford sitting down a couple of defenders before taking on too much and losing possession in the box. this was then opposed by a chance for United old boy Darren Fletcher in the 50th minute at the other end, possibly the first real-time West Brom had given United a bit of a scare so far in the game. Just after this saw the most promising bit of play so far in the game, a wonderful interchange between United’s attackers Mkhitaryan, Lingered and Rashford saw the passage of slick passing, only to present a chance for Fellaini to have a shot from around 12 yards out. Fellaini swiped at it, only for the glaring chance to finish wide of Foster’s right-hand post.
At this point the frustration became well and truly apparent within the United team, the game became more and more disjointed with West From more than happy to concede throw-ins and corners. Mourinho’s men found now real flow between the 53rd minute and the 66th minute. Just an endless number of crosses and corners in United’s favour, with no real chances being provided. In the 66th minute, an unusual mistake from the very consistent Gareth McAuley saw an opportunity arise for Mkhitaryan. Yet Foster’s speed to get off his line saw the opportunity go begging as he provided a very smart save to deny United taking the lead.
The latter end of the game saw some of the games more lively stages. Rooney was introduced in the 74th minute to try and provide some creativity to unlock West Brom’s defence. While Rashford’s frustration was clear to see, he started to drop in deep and started unleashing some shots from distance, with one effort flying just wide of the post. As the ball was sent towards the Stratford end by the West Brom players, a snapshot from Darren Fletcher in the 85th minute saw him hit the bar from some distance. A shot that looked certain to fall into David De Gea’s hands saw him completely bamboozled and he was very fortunate to see the ball rebound off the crossbar into his very thankful hands. Rashford then tried to better this effort in the 86th minute, he stepped up to take a free-kick and forced a wonderful save-of-the-season contender from Ben Foster. The free kick was arrowing for the top left-hand corner yet a very strong hand from Foster denied him.
With that last effort, it seemed as though united had run out of steam, passes were wayward and first touches were running away from players. The time added on was four minutes and gave United one final chance to try and snatch a winner. Yet this was not to be and was not helped by the United captain. Rooney was not happy with a decision by Mike Dean who decided he was not fouled. Rooney then let this get the better of him, hauling Jacob to the floor seconds later despite the fact United were on the attack, giving Mike Dean no choice by to give West Brom a free kick, taking away any chance United had of a winner. A spat between Fellaini and Yacob saw them lock heads and this wasted the majority of the time remaining in the game. Mike Dean blew his whistle to signify the end of the game. Another frustrating day at Old Trafford.
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Young; Carrick, Fellaini; Mkhitaryan (Rooney 74′), Lingard, Martial; Rashford
Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Blind, Darmian, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe; Willock
Bookings: Marcos Rojo 43′, Marouane Fellaini 90+5, Wayne Rooney 90+5