Predicted XI: [4-3-1-2] Cavani and Greenwood to lead the attack, Fernandes in behind; Diallo on the bench if he recovers from illness?

Manchester United return to Premier League action as they travel to the Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side beat West Ham United in the Emirates FA Cup on Tuesday evening and a 1-0 victory in which the only goal of the match was scored seven minutes into the first period of extra time. Scott McTominay was the scorer of the goal, reaching seven goals for this club this season. United currently sit in second place in the Premier League this season but with Manchester City, Leicester City and Liverpool (the latter two facing each other) all play before United do on Sunday, so their position could change, if Leicester beat Liverpool, which is a distinct possibility at this stage of the season.

Sam Allardyce’s side are in dire straits at this stage of the season, sitting in 19th place, a point ahead of Sheffield United at rock bottom and three points behind 18th placed Fulham. The Baggies are now 13 points from safety with Newcastle United and Burnley both on 25 points so far this season with Burnley’s goal difference putting them ahead of the Magpies. Burnley’s 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace will be a worrying sign for Allardyce’s side, who now need to start winning to have any chance of surviving in the Premier League this season. I don’t have any sympathy for them as they only have themselves to blame for their position in the league table at this stage of the season. If United beat them, dire consequences will remain for them.

How United have faired against West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League.

United and the Baggies have played a total of 25 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 16 times, drawing five times and losing four times. United have scored a total of 50 goals with the Baggies scoring 20. United have won four penalties, scoring three of them with the Baggies winning one penalty and failing to score it. United have kept a total of 12 clean sheets against the Baggies, who have kept four clean sheets. In terms of discipline, United have received a total of 36 yellow cards and one red card with the Baggies receiving 31 yellow cards and four red cards. United beat the Baggies 1-0 earlier in the season and will be seeking to take all three points on offer in their first trip to the Hawthorns in just over three years.

In their last visit to the Hawthorns, which was on the 17 December 2017, United won 2-1 with Romelu Lukaku opening the scoring in the 27th minute and Jesse Lingard doubling the lead in the 35th minute. Gareth Barry scored a consolation for the Baggies in the 77th minute of the match. At Old Trafford that season, which was played on the 15 April 2018, United were beaten 1-0 with a solo Jay Rodriguez strike in the 73rd minute of the match. United did beat the Baggies 1-0 earlier this season and it was a dire match in which Bruno Fernandes’ penalty was the only real highlight of the match. Sam Allardyce’s side have found themselves in a dire situation this season, which United should aim to keep going for them, getting the win away from home.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League at The Hawthorns on Sunday afternoon…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea has kept just eight clean sheets in the Premier League this season, which puts him joint fifth in the league needing to do more to be compared to the likes of Kasper Schmeichel (fourth), Edouard Mendy (third), Emiliano Martinez (second) and Ederson (first). De Gea is a capable goalkeeper and has the ingredients to correct his mistakes, but it might be too late in his career to change something that has never really been corrected. In set-pieces, it seems he does not have the courage to keep his position at times, which can result in him being beaten quite easily. Two of the goals that he conceded against Everton should never have been goals. Hopefully, De Gea will start to make a mark, otherwise, Dean Henderson will.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw

United’s defence needs more improvement. In terms of inspiration, there is not much for many. Some supporters thought it was possible to sign a top of the range central defender in January, when it was not really possible. It might not even be possible in the summer because of the coronavirus pandemic and the way it has changed the financial landscapes for all the clubs in the world. Against the Baggies, Eric Bailly should return to the starting XI, partnering Harry Maguire. They had a good run together in December and it worked quite well at times. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw should keep their places in the fullback positions, as right now, both are in good form and looking to make it even better for the club.

Midfield: Scott McTominay, Fred, Donny van de Beek

A three-man midfield would work well for United in matches such as this one. Everyone will expect the Baggies to play for formation that is going to see them play for a point, rather that have any kind of attacking prowess and seek the victory that they desperately need. In which case, United packing the midfield in a way to contest with that would be beneficial. Paul Pogba is injured, so he will be out of contention. In which case, Scott McTominay, who scored the only goal int he 1-0 FA Cup victory over West Ham on Tuesday should be the first name on the team sheet. Fred is another who offers something going forward with Donny van de Beek the other that needs time on the pitch to find the form to fight for his place at the club this season.

Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes has 18 goals and 11 assists so far this season, which puts his as the top scorer of the club, scoring two more goals than Marcus Rashford and level in terms of assists, with Rashford on the same amount. Fernandes was a great January signing in 2020 and brought about a different fortune for United, being the player most likely to score, assist or even create a goal. He was on the bench earlier in the week, which gave him a rest, although he came off the bench. The Baggies will be seeking to ruin any attacking play for United and Fernandes will need to work hard, along with his teammates in order to get another three points on the board this season. It will be a tough match for United and one that they need to win.

Forwards: Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani

United usually play with one striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation but with the fact the Baggies will be dropping back to defend, probably for a point. United have more players further up the pitch could be needed. Edinson Cavani is a great striker and can find the positions to score, or even drag defensive players out towards him to let another play find a goal. This will be important if United are to get another result on the road this season. A point will not be good enough. Mason Greenwood would be the best partner for Cavani in this match. He is fearless going forward and needs to play in a more central position. The form of both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial is questionable and them being on the bench could give United something later in the match, if needed.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams; Juan Mata, Amad Diallo, Daniel James; Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial

Nine substitutes can be named on the bench with only three of them being used in the Premier League this season. This will give United more of a choice in the substitutions, which could change the game if that is needed. Dean Henderson will probably be back on the bench after his clean sheet against the Hammers on Tuesday. In defence, Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles and Brandon Williams could all be called upon. In midfield, Juan Mata, Amad Diallo, if he recovers from the illness that kept him out of the U23’s 3-0 victory over Arsenal on Friday and Daniel James could all provide something, should they be required. In attack, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial might be able to offer something, should they be needed.

Written by John Walker

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.