Manchester United beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 after Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a brace either side of the half to five United into three back-to-back victories in the Premier League, the tenth match in a row United have avoided defeat. Ibrahimovic, a 35-year-old striker in the twilight of his career was apparently a guy that could not cut in in the Premier League with many of the ABU’s suggesting he would not score many goals. 16 scored so far though proves them wrong., which is like Santa Claus giving us presents a week early, in a way.
Jose Mourinho made three changes to the side that beat Crystal Palace on Wednesday evening with Antonio Valencia back from suspension, Matteo Darmian replacing Daley Blind at left-back and Jesse Lingard replacing Juan Mata on the right-wing. Fatigue will be at play with this United side, who were in action just three days ago against Crystal Palace, earning a 2-1 victory over Alan Pardew’s side. United would need to be at their best in order to get the better of Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion. United started the match brightly, getting a goal inside the first five minutes with Jesse Lingard putting in a superb delivery, assisting Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 15th goal of the season, scored from a header.
United could have conceded in the 12th minute of the match after giving away a free-kick, but David De Gea had it covered. United were playing well, getting forward and could have had a few more chances on goal. The Baggies were trying to change the plan of the game, though, edging forward and trying to get something to go their way. So far, though, United were on top of the game, once again. Wayne Rooney could have had his 249th goal for United with a stunning shot from the edge of the box, only the crossbar thwarting his attempt. Unlucky for United there. He will be up for matching that record even more now.
Ibrahimovic was shown a yellow card in the 24th minute for a reckless challenge, which was deemed lucky by the commentary team suggesting he was another player to avoid a red card; with Marcos Rojo lucky in two matches recently. Just after the half hour, Salomon Rondon could have put the Baggies level with a superb header towards goal, but it was off target. Good attempt, though. United needed to ease the pressure by keeping the ball for longer periods, pushing forward and trying to double their lead. United defensive pairing Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo have dealt with everything thrown at them so far in the match, which was good to see.
In the final minute of the half, United were on the attack, looking bright, Matteo Darmian had an attempt on goal, which was deflected and saw Jesse Lingard run into the box with the ball and have an attempt himself, which was taken from an angle, lofting it over the crossbar. United could have ended the half in style. Judging the first half though, it was a physical battle, one which United were on top of, leading 1-0 at the break with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s early goal. United have 45 minutes to play yet and need to secure the win, ideally, which could be tough with the Baggies looking for any chance to get back into the match.
The second half started with neither side making any changes, but with the Baggies needing to try and change the course of the match. United were still playing some good attacking football and United were still on top of the match. In the 55th minute of the match, Paul Pogba tried to catch the keeper, from distance, off his line, but Foster got to the ball to thwart any attempt. Moments later, Zlatan scored his 16th goal of the season, his tenth in nine matches, putting United 2-0 up and commanding the match at The Hawthorns. There was a bit of a scuffle between Rojo and Rondon in the area, some pushing, shoving and a slap, which resulted in both players being yellow carded.
The Baggies were trying to get something back from the match around the 70th minute, winning a corner in the 72nd minute, amounting to nothing apart from a few jeers as Pogba’s arm touched the ball, ball to hand, from the deflection. Penalty not given. United then went on the attack, looking for more from the match and Lingard was then took out by Olsson. The Baggies made their first change with James Morrison replacing Craig Dawson. The home side won a free-kick after Darmian fouled on the edge of the box, but like everything else, it amounted to nothing. Tony Pulis should be awarded the best-dressed man in the Black Country, though!
Mourinho made his first change of the match with Marcus Rashford replacing Lingard in the 77th minute of the match. The Baggies made two more changes in the 82nd minute of the match with Hal Robson-Kanu and Jonathan Leko replacing Matt Phillips and Nacer Chadli. Marouane Fellaini, warming up for United was Mourinho’s second substitution, replacing Wayne Rooney with Michael Carrick taking the captain’s armband for the remainder of the match. United were still in the driving seat, playing the kind of football you would expect from the club, guiding home all three points, their third Premier League win in a row and their tenth match without defeat.
Chris Brunt was given a yellow card for an obvious shoulder barge on Marcus Rashford in the 87th minute of the match as the youngster broke ahead of him, it was all he could do to avoid costing his side another goal. United have not won here since the season under David Moyes, drawing the season after and losing last season. Sir Alex Ferguson’s last match here was a 5-5 thriller in the 2012/13 season. Chris Smalling was Mourinho’s third and final change of the match with the England defender replacing Ander Herrera. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was named BT Sports Man of the Match, deservedly so.
United have eight days of rest before facing David Moyes’ Sunderland on Boxing Day, meaning United will be sixth for Christmas, well in a position to get back into the top four this season, and still with Manchester City v Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley and Everton v Liverpool to come between now and Monday, meaning this result could be a much better one for United, who are now level on points with Spurs, but nine goals behind them on goal difference. Merry Christmas United fans.
Goals: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 5′, 56′
Assists: Jesse Lingard 5′, Wayne Rooney 56′
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian; Carrick, Herrera (Smalling 90+2′); Lingard (Rashford 77′), Pogba, Rooney (Fellaini 84′); Ibrahimovic
Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Blind; Mata, Martial
Bookings: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 24′, Jesse Lingard 57′, Marcos Rojo 65′