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What We Learned: An underwhelming performance, Lukaku scoring and the need for creative reinforcement

Manchester United earned another three points on the road on Sunday afternoon, beating West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in the Premier League, cutting the deficit between them and leaders Manchester City to eleven points again. United scored twice in the first half through Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard. In the second half, United were poor with the Baggies getting themselves what turned into a consolation goal in the 77th minute through former Manchester City and Everton midfielder Gareth Barry. United were lucky not to concede another goal late in the second half.

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An underwhelming performance

United scored twice in eight minutes, which is great. They stopped the Baggies from scoring earlier in the first half and controlled the game going into the break. At 2-0 up, many will presume it was game over, but recently, United doing things similar in other matches did not feel like that. In the second half, like in other recent matches, United just did not seem to be playing as they were in the first half. It is like they take their feet off the pedal and slow the game down, which worked in getting all three points but gave the Baggies chances to get back in the game, Barry’s goal being that.

United could have conceded another goal after Barry scored, but were lucky not to. Teams like Manchester City and Liverpool are driving their victories for much of the match, not just before they go 2-0 up. United need to finish teams off, keep scoring, keep pressing, not sitting back and relying on the counter-attack to get forward. United are joint top with City and Burnley for goals conceded this season (12) which shows they have a good defence. They are also second-best to City for goals scored (39). At half-time against Bournemouth (3-0), Liverpool had scored 37 goals this season.

In order to kill off games, United need to show attacking flair. Mourinho may not have that in his team at present with only Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford the players using their pace to break forward in the wide positions; Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been missing for the last six matches. Rashford and Martial seldom play in the same team together, one replacing the other recently. It shows that United will need to find that winger to set the league alight, which will help them prevail here. It is not looking good for entertainment right now, despite the results coming in.

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Romelu Lukaku can score goals, maybe not against the big teams….yet!

Romelu Lukaku scored his 15th goal for Manchester United against West Bromwich Albion, it was his second goal this week – also scoring the winner against Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening. The £75 million man has scored some great goals this season and started the season in blistering form. A goal drought between the October and November international breaks sam him lose confidence and despite that, and scoring other goals against Newcastle United and CSKA Moscow, the form shown earlier in the season has not returned.

Lukaku has scored four goals in his last nine appearances, all after the final international break of the season, which for a team like United is not enough. Granted, players lose form at times, but United reliance on Lukaku seems to be too much for him. The biggest team Lukaku has scored against this season was Real Madrid, failing to score against any of the top six sides from last season. Lukaku scored against Manchester City (twice), Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal for Everton last season, failing to score against any of those teams this season.

If United are going to turn a corner this season, keeping Lukaku fresh and confidence is going be to a big battle. If he continues to fail to score against the top six teams from last season, the media will have a field day. The return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have helped him, but the Swede is being used sparingly, presumably because he has not yet fully recovered from his knee injury sustained more than seven months ago now. Lukaku needs to arrive during big matches, or it defeats the point in him being at the club. Most strikers can score against the smaller teams.

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Paul Pogba is a player who will be missed if players of his level do not arrive at the club

The prolific Frenchman has missed the last three Premier League matches due to suspension and getting through this victory over the Baggies will see him return to the fold. Paul Pogba was heavily criticised by the media, the ABU’s and even some of the United faithful last season. This season, his critics seem to be eating their words. Over reliance is something United have with Pogba as he is their best player. United have talent throughout the pitch, but when Pogba is not there, few seem to put themselves forward to take his place as the leader and the creative outlet on the pitch.

This season, a mixture of injury and suspension has seen Pogba play only 12 matches in all competitions (including the UEFA Super Cup). The Frenchman has scored three goals, assisted six times, having 30 shots on goal, nine of which were on target. His creativity and the fact he can play a number of positions, also being favoured as the number ten in a 4-2-3-1 formation at times, shows just why United thrive when he is on the pitch. Pogba is United’s best player, the need for other players who can be that man is noticeable, even when he is on the pitch but definitely when he is not on it.

Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Scott McTominay have all played when Pogba has been injured or suspended, McTominay being the player that seemed to rise to the challenge. The 21-year-old will be seeking to impress the manager and his teammates, which is why he has looked better. Ander Herrera does not seem to be all that interested (sometimes) this season and Fellaini has been injured and is currently on the sidelines now. Having another creative player in the midfield would do wonders for United. Who though? That is the question.

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Conclusion

Manchester United have shown improvement this season. They are second in the Premier League with 41 points after 18 matches – last season, United had 33 points, scoring 27 goals, compared to the 39 goals scored after the same number of matches this season. United are into the fifth round of the Carabao Cup, a competition they won last season, also into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, last season they were into the same point of the UEFA Europa League. The improvement is there to see, but there needs to be more for it to matter.

Catching City will rely on other clubs doing United, and others a favour. That is not something anyone club will want to rely on. It is the fact Chelsea, the reigning Premier League champions are still behind United by three points and a nine-goal difference, which is something the London club should be hammered for, but the criticism seems to always head for Manchester United, as they are the team everyone wants to read about, whether they support United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal or whoever. Hated, adored, never ignored.

Ratings: Matic MOTM in Baggies victory; Smalling and Jones stood out too…

Manchester United beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at the Hawthorns in the Premier League. United opened the scoring through Romelu Lukaku in the 27th minute, assisted by Marcus Rashford, before doubling the lead in the 35th minute through Jesse Lingard, assisted by Juan Mata. The Baggies scored in the 77th minute through Gareth Barry.

It was another one of those matches where United looked good in the first half, took a 2-0 lead, but in the second half they did not play as well. I am not sure why that keeps happening, but welcoming a team to attack for large spells despite having a 2-0 lead is not a good thing. United were lucky on a few occasions, which could have sen their defeat turned into a draw, or worse.

Three players stood out as the Man of the Match; Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Nemanja Matic. The Serbian is the player that I have chosen after his first-half performance, in which he battled in midfield and inspired his side to score twice in eight minutes. Matic has been a great buy for United and Mourinho, filling a position United have struggled to fill in recent seasons.

United do need to start pulling out much better performances in the coming matches. Paul Pogba is eligible to face Bristol City in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday after sitting out of the last three matches after the red card in the 3-1 victory over Arsenal a fortnight ago. Mourinho must have seen the problems in the second half, and they need to be dealt with.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Unlucky not to keep his eleventh clean sheet of the Premier League season. It was a quiet game for De Gea.

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25 Antonio Valencia

Played well at right-back but came off injured in the second half. Hope it won't be anything too serious.

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4 Phil Jones

Jones seems to be getting back to his best after coming back from injury. One of the contenders for MOTM today.

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Chris Smalling

Did what he needed to do to keep Rondon at bay. A MOTM contender for his performance.

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18 Ashley Young

Started at left-back, finished at right-back. Played well both in defence and attack.

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21 Ander Herrera

I don't think the Spanish midfielder has played well in recent matches but today he showed his presence and was a nuisance. No replacement for Pogba though.

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31 Nemanja Matic

MOTM for me. The Serbian played well in the first half and made himself known in midfield and defence at times. Cracking buy for Mourinho's side - still a big loss for Chelsea

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8 Juan Mata

Showed his energy against the Baggies. Got an assist for the second goal. Showed his vision at times. Number ten material for me.

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14 Jesse Lingard

Scored his third goal in four matches. Got stuck into the game and reaped the rewards. Not sure why supporters don't appreciate him.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Got an assist in Lukaku's opening goal of the game. Saw himself booked for an arguement with Hegazi. Nearly scored a goal himself. Good game for the talented 20-year-old.

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Romelu Lukaku

Scored his second goal this week. Still didn't celebrate. The stats go against him as he does not score in the big games. That needs to change for him to help United get back into contention.

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Substitutes

16 Marcos Rojo

Replaced Valencia 66'. Did what he needed to do. Glad to see him get involved again.

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9 Anthony Martial

Replaced Rashford 79'. Got stuck into the game, but not enough to get something from it. United did not dominate the second half in an atacking sense.

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39 Scott McTominay

Replaced Lingard 86'. Came on with four minutes plus stoppage time. Did what was asked of him. It will all add to his development.

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Report: Lukaku and Lingard earn Manchester United a victory over the Baggies

Manchester United beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. It was a first half showing for United, who opened the scoring on the 27th minute through Romelu Lukaku, doubling the lead on the 35th minute through Jesse Lingard. United were not the same side in the second half with Gareth Barry scoring a consolation goal in the 77th minute.

Jose Mourinho made three changes to the side which beat Bournemouth on Wednesday evening at Old Trafford. Ashley Young replaced Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera replaced Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford replaced Anthony Martial. United need to get three points on today as Manchester City beat Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, extending their lead at the top to 14 points.

United started well at the Hawthorns with Rashford on the attack but his shot was blocked. Juan Mata tried to keep the attack alive, putting in a low cross, which was hacked clear of danger. The Baggies started to get the better of United at times, sending a counter attack forward, not able to do anything to break the deadlock early on.

West Brom won a corner in the 12th minute of the match, which was cleared by Antonio Valencia, the player who gave the corner away, heading James McClean’s effort out of danger. United then broke forward on the attack, winning a throw in, which came to nothing. Romelu Lukaku did have some chances, failing to put his side ahead.

In the 25th minute of the match, United gave away a corner after a deflected ball crossed the line, despite David De Gea’s attempt to stop it. Former Red Jonny Evans headed over the crossbar, aiming to break the deadlock. United were looking pretty pedestrian at this point in the match, unable to break forward or create from the midfield on the attack.

United took the lead in the 28th minute of the match after Romelu Lukaku headed into the back of the net, beating Kieran Gibbs and Ben Foster after Rashford set him up for the goal. It was number 15 for Lukaku this season – which is one of the reasons he was brought in by Mourinho – to score goals. In the 31st minute, Chris Smalling put in a great challenge to deny Oliver Burke.

West Brom had the chance to equalise in the 34th minute of the match but Valencia scrambled the ball clear after a dangerous low cross was put into the box. United needed to be more aware of the Baggies, as they were pushing for something. United doubled their lead with Jesse Lingard scoring another stunning goal after some good play by Nemanja Matic and Mata in the run up to the goal.

United did what they need to do to kill the game off at the end of the first half, but it was no way game over as the Baggies will seek to overturn their two goal deficit in the second half. United, after scoring two goals in the first half have recently started the second half poorly, not trying to add to their haul. This is something which would need to change.

At the start of the second half, Alan Pardew made a change with Claudio Yacob being replaced by former Manchester City and Everton midfielder Gareth Barry. In the 50th minute of the match, United could have scored their third goal of the game after Rashford put the ball into the area cleverly but Lukaku was flagged for offside. Rashford was booked after a spat with Ahmed Hagazy.

In the 56th minute, with United on the attack, the ball was played into a dangerous area with Rashford sending the ball towards goal, but wide of the target. Just before the hour, another counter-attach from United nearly resulted in another goal but Lingard’s effort was gathered by Foster.

In the 65th minute, West Brom made their second change with Jay Rodriguez replacing Burke. Valencia was also unable to continue seemingly with a slight hamstring problem, Mourinho sent Marcos Rojo on for the Ecuadorian in the 66th minute, the Argentinian making his 100th appearance for United. Ashley Young reverted from left-back to right-back.

In the 71st minute, West Brom made their final change with Chris Brunt replacing Grzegorz Krychowiak. The Baggies had a few chances to get a goal back but Brunt’s shot is still rising now and Solomon Rondon’s effort was not good enough. Seconds later, the Baggies got a goal back through Barry.

Mourinho made his second change of the match with Anthony Martial replacing Rashford in the 79th minute of the match with United looking to retain their lead in the final eleven minutes of the match. United made their final change with Scott McTominay replacing Lingard in the 86th minute of the match.

United were lucky in the 87th minute as the Baggies nearly got the equaliser and De Gea had to scramble to get the ball in the congested box. Barry and De Gea had a bit of a fracas after Barry stood on the Spanish goalkeeper. It is yet another game United have scored twice in the first half and looked a much worse side in the second half. Not sure what changes during the break.

Lukaku had the chance to score United’s third goal in the second minute of four in stoppage time, but his shot was wide of the target and the advancing Mata was too far away to run and score. Matic was booked for time wasting in the 93rd minute of the match. Rondon was booked for a clumsy foul on Phil Jones.

United won the match, another three points meaning City are 11 clear again. It was a third consecutive win on the road for United, with a trip to Bristol City in the Carabao Cup coming on Wednesday evening, before they travel to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City on Saturday, the first 19:45 kick off in the Premier League on a Saturday evening.

Goals: Romelu Lukaku 27′, Jesse Lingard 35′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 27′, Juan Mata 35′

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia (Rojo 66′), Jones, Smalling, Young; Herrera, Matic; Mata, Lingard (McTominay 86′), Rashford (Martial 79′); Lukaku

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Lindelof, Shaw; Ibrahimovic

Bookings: Marcus Rashford 53′, Nemanja Matic 90+3′, Marcos Rojo 90+5′

Confirmed Starting XI: Herrera, Mata, Rashford and Young start; Shaw on the bench

Manchester United travel to the Hawthorns to take on West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. Last weekend, United fell to their third defeat in the league this season with Manchester City winning the Manchester derby 2-1 at Old Trafford. Three days later, United beat Bournemouth 1-0 at Old Trafford, returning to winning ways but still eleven points behind City, the Premier League leaders. United will be looking to keep winning during the festive period, looking to overcome the Baggies, under new manager Alan Pardew are still looking for a recent victory in the Premier League, winning the first two matches of the season, drawing eight and losing seven. United need to make it another defeat for them.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Young;

Herrera, Matic;

Mata, Lingard, Rashford;

Lukaku

Substitutes:

Romero; Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw; McTominay; Ibrahimovic, Martial

Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion have played 130 competitive matches in the history of both teams; the first match on the 1st October 1892, a 0-0 draw in the old Division One. United have won 55 times, drawn 32 times and lost 43 times. The last defeat to the Baggies was on the 6th March 2016, a 1-0 defeat at the Hawthorns with Salomón Rondón scoring the winner in the 66th minute of the match. United won this fixture last season, a 2-0 victory with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring a brace in the fifth and 56th minutes of the match.

The match on Sunday will be played on the same date as this fixture last season, albeit on a different day. United have a good record against the Baggies – the longest unbeaten run was 13 matches which lasted from the 27th November 2004, until the 19th May 2013, that 5-5 draw which marker Sir Alex Ferguson’s 1,500th and final competitive match of his management. Romelu Lukaku scored a hat-trick in that match, against his current club.

How Manchester United could lineup in a 3-4-1-2 formation against West Bromwich Albion

Manchester United face West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon, a match Jose Mourinho’s side will need to win to keep the chase on rivals Manchester City who sit at the top of the Premier League table with an eleven point cushion. United lost the first Manchester derby of the season, which was a chance to claw back some of the deficit to City, but it did not happen the way we all wanted. United went back to winning ways against Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening, winning 1-0, which may not have been what was expected, but it was still three points. United will need to keep the victories coming to keep the chase on City, who the pundits and the media are suggesting have already won the league, after 17 matches.

Mourinho has been criticised this week for playing ‘park the bus’ football. Even former manager Louis van Gaal has weighed into the criticism trying to make out his side played attacking football, when the statistics state otherwise. United have come a long way since Mourinho started his role as the manager, winning two major honours last season, getting back into the UEFA Champions League and challenging in the Premier League, sitting in second-place for months. United’s results a much better than last season, winning more matches, drawing fewer, but some suggest that improvement is not an actual improvement. United though will need to get the result they need against the Baggies, stopping Alan Pardew from getting his first win as manager of the club.

Starting XI Formation and Prediction (3-4-1-2):

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Goalkeeper: David De Gea

The Spanish goalkeeper has been in the best of form this season. The 14 saves against Arsenal in the 3-1 victory, putting in another good performance against Bournemouth and having more clean sheets; ten, than Liverpool have won matches; eight. David De Gea is on to something at United this season. United may not be top of the league, but there is something within the side that has not been present for a number of years. The team has shown fight, determination and has got results they needed, albeit not against City, but others. De Gea will be an important figure this season in the bit to knock City from the top of the league and win their first league title in five years. Right now that seems more of a dream than anything else, but it could happen and if it did, the media would be a laughing-stock yet again.

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Back Three: Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo

A back three has seen United play some good, attacking football this season. It is a formation, which if it works, can see United strengthen the midfield and play two forwards, which is what United need to be doing to start punishing teams. But will that still be enough for some of the fan base who are not happy winning matches but want multiple goals and to be entertained for every minute of the match, like Sir Alex Ferguson did. How history changes. Ferguson was not always a manager who brought entertaining football to the club, there were times he set out for the result his side needed, which is the important factor. We all want to be entertained, but everything needs to balance. With Eric Bailly on the sidelines for two to three months, Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, all fit and raring to go, could form a three-man team at the back, which could work very well. Mourinho also has Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and Axel Tuanzebe to utilise, meaning his defence is pretty stocked at this stage of the season, which is a good sign.

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Midfield: Antonio Valencia, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Luke Shaw

Nemanja Matic and Mourinho have both praised Scott McTominay this week, Mourinho for the way he got involved against Bournemouth and Matic for the way the player fought alongside him against Benfica and Bournemouth. With Paul Pogba sitting out this match as the third of his three-match suspension and Marouane Fellaini reportedly on the sidelines for a period of time, although unconfirmed, Ander Herrera would be the only other option as Michael Carrick may not be fully fit after his heart problems. Antonio Valencia could play as the right-wing-back, an impressive figure at the club over the last few seasons. Luke Shaw should keep his place after two recent appearances which has seen him look hungry and looking to stake his claim in the team. This may not be the best midfield combination, but it is one deemed good enough to get three points against the Baggies.

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Number Ten: Juan Mata

Recently, Juan Mata has been playing well. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan seemingly frozen out at the club again, for a good reason – he is not putting in the same amount of effort as other players. Mourinho was right in stating that he disappeared during a number of matches, many of which so-called supporters were moaning, but now seem to be moaning that the Armenian is not getting a chance. You need to earn chances, not sit there expecting them. Obviously, there are players doing a lot more to impress the manager and his team of coaches – Mata being one of them. United need a number ten whether it be next month or in the summer. Mata and Jesse Lingard can be the stand in players for the now, but it does need to be addressed and soon.

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Strikers: Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial

I don’t expect Romelu Lukaku to be dropped for this match, but leaving him on the bench and seeing what Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial can do as strikers would be good to see. Both players are capable of splitting the defence and scoring a goal or two. This is something United need to be doing to keep the side fresh. Yes, Lukaku was brought in to be the striker, so was Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Teddy Sheringham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and a whole host of others. Rotation is key, as this helps keep players fresh and shows that the team can be reliant on a number of players, not just one – which is how I feel when I see Lukaku starting all the time. Lukaku is a great striker and puts an effort in, but fatigue is something which could strike soon.

Preview: Manchester United need to beat the Baggies to keep the momentum on Manchester City

West Bromwich Albion -v- Manchester United

Premier League 2017/18

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich

Sunday 17th December 2017; KO 14:15 GMT

Live on Sky Sports Premier League HD in the United Kingdom

Manchester United travel to the Hawthorns to take on West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. Last weekend, United fell to their third defeat in the league this season with Manchester City winning the Manchester derby 2-1 at Old Trafford. Three days later, United beat Bournemouth 1-0 at Old Trafford, returning to winning ways but still eleven points behind City, the Premier League leaders. United will be looking to keep winning during the festive period, looking to overcome the Baggies, under new manager Alan Pardew are still looking for a recent victory in the Premier League, winning the first two matches of the season, drawing eight and losing seven. United need to make it another defeat for them.

Paul Pogba will be looking to return after this match, serving a three-match suspension and eligible to face Bristol City in the Carabao Cup at Ashton Gate on Wednesday evening, which should see United in much better condition as when Pogba does not feature, United seems to be a completely different team. Jose Mourinho will be happy to have his star player back for the rest of the festive fixtures; four more playable after this match before the end of the month. Mourinho confirmed on Friday that Ivorian defender Eric Bailly will have surgery and be out of action for two to three months, which will be a big miss, but right now, United have a near enough full defence with Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and Axel Tuanzebe all fit.

Previous Matches: Manchester United have won the most matches but the Baggies can pull a surprise, or two

Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion have played 130 competitive matches in the history of both teams; the first match on the 1st October 1892, a 0-0 draw in the old Division One. United have won 55 times, drawn 32 times and lost 43 times. The last defeat to the Baggies was on the 6th March 2016, a 1-0 defeat at the Hawthorns with Salomón Rondón scoring the winner in the 66th minute of the match. United won this fixture last season, a 2-0 victory with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring a brace in the fifth and 56th minutes of the match.

The match on Sunday will be played on the same date as this fixture last season, albeit on a different day. United have a good record against the Baggies – the longest unbeaten run was 13 matches which lasted from the 27th November 2004, until the 19th May 2013, that 5-5 draw which marker Sir Alex Ferguson’s 1,500th and final competitive match of his management. Romelu Lukaku scored a hat-trick in that match, against his current club.

Form: Mourinho’s side are in much better shape this season

Manchester United have played 17 matches in the Premier League this season and currently sit in second place. United have won 12 times, drawn twice and lost three matches, earning 38 points, 11 points adrift of the league leaders, Manchester City. United have scored 37 goals and conceded just 11, meaning they have a goal difference of 26. In the Carabao Cup, United are in the fifth round and looking to defend the trophy they won last season. In the UEFA Champions League, United are into the round of 16 after winning five and losing one of the six group stage matches played.

West Bromwich Albion have played 17 matches in the Premier League this season and currently sit just above the relegation zone in 17th place. The Baggies have 14 points and only goal difference is keeping them out of the relegation zone. Alan Pardew’s side have scored 12 goals, conceding 22 and have won twice, drawn eight times, losing seven times. West Brom were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Manchester City in the last round and are not in a European competition this season.

Team News: One injury for Manchester United and it seems to be a long-term one

Jose Mourinho has confirmed that he has no new injuries to contend with ahead of the trip to The Hawthorns on Sunday. Eric Bailly has been ruled out for the next two to three months after needing surgery on his ankle. Paul Pogba end his suspension after this match, which will see the Frenchman return to face Bristol City. Phil Jones has returned from injury which will see Mourinho’s side pretty strong for the festive period. Speaking about Bailly’s injury in his pre-match press conference on Friday, Mourinho told the official Manchester United website the following:

“Bailly goes to surgery – the decision is made. I don’t say [he’s out] for the rest of the season but it’s for the next two or three months. But now we have [Phil] Jones back and we have [Chris] Smalling, even [Daley] Blind, so it’s a position we have good cover in but of course we’ll miss the player.”

Predicted Starting XI: Romelu Lukaku to be dropped against his former club? United still have the side to beat the Baggies…

Match Prediction: Manchester United to reign supreme 

West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Manchester United

Mourinho: We deserved it, we were the best team

Fresh on a nine-match unbeaten run, Manchester United beat Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in the Premier League on Wednesday evening. United has been going through a turbulent time recently, winning cup matches, but drawing in the league, against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, that changed with United winning at home in the league for the first tine since the 24th September and the first time in the league since the 6th November. United have turned a corner and, so far, seem to be heading in the right direction. Jose Mourinho’s side still sit in sixth place in the league table, three points behind Spurs, and six points behind Manchester City, but they are slowly getting closer to being able to finish inside the top four this season.

Jose Mourinho praised his Manchester United squad for their battling victory against Palace on Wednesday evening, saying:

“We deserved it, we were the best team, they [Palace] had just a little reaction, just a little reaction, but they had it and they scored a goal in that period. Then we had the best period in the game. In the first half we had control but in the last 20 minutes we were super dominant. We created a lot, had a big desire and we won deservedly in the end.”

The manager also spoke about the club competing with the league leaders this season:

“We are doing enough for that. If we had the points we lost at home in the draws in matches that we did more than enough to win then we would be close to the top of the league, but we lost these points and at this moment we are just closing the gap to the top four positions. There are three more matches before the end of the year and let’s see how it looks on 31 December.”

Mourinho had some praise for Marcos Rojo, who could have been sent off against Palace, just like he could have been against Everton the weekend before last:

“Rojo is playing phenomenal, Jones is playing phenomenal. I didn’t discuss the Danny Rose tackle, I didn’t discuss the David Luiz tackle. I am not going to discuss the Marcos Rojo tackle. He is an aggressive, clean player, probably playing the best football of his career.”

Mourinho also had praise for Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as without these players, United may not have beaten Palace:

“I think they both were phenomenal during the game. The pass obviously is fantastic, the movement is great, the shot is good, but for me I probably prefer what Zlatan did after the goal because that was phenomenal. He played in front of the back four, winning every ball in the air, controlling on the chest, cooling down the play, he is phenomenal. It is not just the goals that he scores, it is not just the goal that gives us three points, it is the leadership, the desire, the passion. Fantastic!”

Mourinho also praised the Manchester United supporters, saying:

“They were fantastic and they are fantastic every day. For the players, to win in such a difficult place is fantastic. For us it was difficult to arrive here as well. We took one hour and 50 minutes from the hotel to arrive here because the traffic was so bad. We arrived here at 7pm, everything was so quick because 10 minutes after we should have been in the warm-ups. Everything was difficult for us, too, because maybe we felt this empathy between the players and the fans.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic also praised the club’s supporters:

Eric Bailly was injured again, his other knee, which could see him ruled out for the festive period. Speaking after the match, Mourinho said:

“We don’t know [yet]. It is not the same knee, it is the other one. It is the left knee. So he is not coming back to a previous injury. Of course he has a problem with another dimension but he showed amazing character to try and try, and try until his limit.

“The only thing I can say is that it is not the same knee. He had an injury in the right knee and he recovered fantastically well. Now it is the left knee. I don’t know really what he has, but let us see and wait. He could resist for so long. I would say for about 75 minutes he could resist. He is a special guy and his pain level is really high.”

Michael Carrick also spoke to MUTV after the victory, saying:

What We Learned: Paul Pogba is a baller, Zlatan better than Owen

Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park in the Premier League on Wednesday evening. It was a tough match for United, who took the lead through Paul Pogba at the end of the first half, assisted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. United then conceded in the 66th minute of the match, something which became a problem as the match could have ended in a 1-1 draw, meaning United would not have made any ground after their recent troubles, despite not losing in eight matches before tonight. Juan Mata scored what could have been the winner for United, but it was ruled out with the player being (wrongly) flagged offside, which was just another decision to go against United, but they had some in their favour against Palace also. United struck in the 88th minute of the match with what turned out to be the winner with Ibrahimovic scoring the winning goal, assisted by Pogba, the player he assisted at the end of the first half. United have made it nine matches in a row without losing and are sure to commence a run this Christmas, which after the poor period last Christmas, will be well-received.

Paul Pogba is a baller

Paul Pogba has been criticised ever since his world record transfer to Manchester United was announced. Rival fans and even some so-called United supporters have been questioning the decision to spend £89 million plus on the Frenchman, being that he is not a goalscorer or a player who can be considered as a Ballon d’Or winner as he is not Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr or Antoine Griezmann. Goalscorers are not the only players in football, they are goalscorers because of the player behind them, the same player not yet being graded as the best in the world, purely for that reason. Pogba played possibly his best match for United this evening, scoring and assisting, creating four chances, having four shots on goal, playing 91 passes and winning all of his tackles, which would not be the case should he have been a City player, being that Pep Guardiola does not teach tackling. Pogba even manager 41 passes in the opposition’s third of the pitch, which goes to show the player’s ability, but many will choose to ignore he is anything to be excited about, which suggests they just do not understand football, or choose not to. Pogba will, under Jose Mourinho and at Manchester United, become the next big thing in football and the discontent from him doing that will be great entertainment.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores important goals

Michael Owen may think he is the be all and end all to scoring goals at Manchester United, even though he managed just 17 goals in three years at the club, feeling his goals were more important than those scored by the 25-year-old Swede, but all said and done, Zlatan has scored 14 goals this season, all in the first six months of his Manchester United career. Owen may have won a Premier League title, a League Cup and the FA Community Shield at United, but he did not win anything by himself and, most of the time, was carried by the club, spending a lot of time in the injury room. The way Owen talks about things, he is the best ever player to grace the pitch – he’s not. Diego Forlan scored 17 goals for United, in two years. Even Brian Greenhoff scored 17 goals for the club, and he was a defender. In terms of picking a player, Zlatan would get my pick as he’s earned his prestige, whereas Owen never really had any. Zlatan is an important Manchester United player, he may have only scored 41% of the goals scored by the club this season, but having a striker capable of scoring twenty plus goals a season is something United wanted last season and the season before. He may be 35 but look at his physique. He is becoming an unstoppable player, scoring his eighth goal in eight games at this stage of the season.

Michael Carrick is intrinsic to Manchester United

Michael Carrick is a player Manchester United want and need. It is a shame he is reaching the end of his playing days, but adding him as a coach in the years to come, if that is what he wanted to do, would be just as good, helping players develop their game and possibly helping a player with similar characteristics perform just like him, or as good as damn it. Carrick knows what to do, controlling the tempo of the game, using his intelligent passing skills to maintain possession and create chances for United on the advance. He may not have the pace, but a quick mind can be just as good. Look at Juan Mata for instance. Carrick will be a massive loss when he leaves the club, with few able to fill the role, Daley Blind, for instance, perhaps Timothy Fosu-Mensah or even Sean Goss in the years to come vying for the role. For now, though, Carrick must be kept fit, as having him in the starting XI is a surefire way of getting what United need, whether at home or on the road. Bastian Schweinsteiger could well be in with a chance of doing the same job for United, which could help them through the busy festive period and into 2017.

Defence needs some additions

Manchester United’s defence is something that is currently on its backside. Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw are on the sidelines through injury. Antonio Valencia was suspended for the visit to Crystal Palace, which was a massive loss but is something the squad got over. Matteo Darmian is struggling to find the form he had when he arrived at the club around 18 months ago and with Mourinho using all of his four fit central defenders, he will have to travel to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday knowing that many of his players were not able to be rested, unless Shaw and Smalling are due to return anytime soon, Eric Bailly seemed to suffer another injury to his other knee this evening, managing to play the entire first half after a challenge, unable to play much more than five minutes of the second half, replaced by Darmian. United may need to pounce on some new additions in the January transfer window, as if fit, Bailly will be leaving for the African Cup of Nations, where he will be until early February. United have dealt with defensive crises before and will do so again, but it is not the best thing to be enduring at this important stage of the season, but we do not live in an ideal world.

Conclusion

Manchester United have played some great football over the past few months, aside from the visit to Chelsea and Fenerbahçe, of course. Jose Mourinho has implemented some good football at the club in sixth months, something that previous managers have failed to succeed at. The fact United know how to dominate matches could come from the possession-based football under Louis van Gaal, but the ability to press opposition and push for a goal is something we did not see under the Dutchman, mush at least. Mourinho has implemented a great attacking style of play at the Old Trafford club, which has seen its fair share of problems but has also seemingly overcome those problems. Mourinho, despite all the fickle fair weather supporters disagreeing, is the right man for the job, and a year ago, I would never have said that. I never wanted Moutinho, have never liked him, but at Manchester United, Mourinho is a different man and seems to have (so far) been tamed by the beast.

Ratings: Paul Pogba starred in his best performance for Manchester United

Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park on Wednesday evening. Paul Pogba, assisted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic opened the scoring in the final minute of the first half, by Palace had equalised 21 minutes into the second half, with United looking to be suffering another 1-1 draw this season. Marcos Rojo was the villain of the match, fouling Wilfried Zaha with a two-footed tackle, seeing himself booked, but possible should have been sent off, just like he should have been against Everton just over a week ago. United never gave up, though. Pogba was a player at the top of his game, playing one of the best matches for his club this season. The Frenchman had one goal, one assist, four shots on goal, four chances created, six dribbles, 91 passes and 100% of his tackles won. Imagine if he would have signed for Manchester City, tackling would not be something he would be doing as Pep Guardiola does not teach tackles to his players, albeit somewhat strange. United, with another three points in the bank, can now think about Saturday’s trip to West Brom, where another three points will be needed, with this match destined to be a tough encounter.

Goals: Paul Pogba 45+2′, Zlatan Ibrahimovic 88′

Assists: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 45+2′, Paul Pogba 88′

Manchester United: De Gea; Bailly (Darmian 52′), Jones, Rojo, Blind; Carrick, Herrera; Mata (Lingard 71′), Pogba, Rooney (Rashford 80′); Ibrahimovic

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Young, Fellaini, Schweinsteiger

Bookings: Marcos Rojo 38′, Paul Pogba 70′, Marcus Rashford 84′

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Had very little to do in the first half of the match, which is beginning to look like the same story for United, which is a good thing. Made a great save around the hour mark of the match.

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3 Eric Bailly

Looked to have suffered a recurrance of his knee injury twice this evening, but recovered and battled on. Good on the overlap, which gives United another outlet in the right-back position, albeit temporary. Bailly was replaced by Darmian in the 52nd minute of the match after being unable to continue.

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4 Phil Jones

Commmanding in his area, this Phil Jones is so much better than the last. Good to see him take his chance and get a run of matches, looking like he will be a first choice starter for a while yet.

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16 Marcos Rojo

The Argentinian has had a great few months, playing some great football and getting himself some recognition in the meantime. Sadly though, Rojo is still a liability two footing Zaha in a challenge, receiving a yellow card, when it maybe should have been a red - just like at Everton.

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17 Daley Blind

Played at left-back and did what he needed to do. I see him as the one to fill Carrick's boots when he retires based on his intelligent play and eye for a pass. Decent game for the Dutch player this evening.

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16 Michael Carrick

The English midfielder still has what it takes. His calming presence in midfield, his eye for a pass and his ability see him as an intrinsic player for Mourinho's side. Replacing him will be a problem. Great performance.

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21 Ander Herrera

A good game for the Spanish midfielder. Did what he has been doing this season under Mourinho. One of the stand out players of the match. United in his blood and certain to be a contender to be the next club captain.

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8 Juan Mata

It was one of those nights for Mata - scored United's second goal, which was disallowed for being offside. Had a good game on the right-wing, after standing in for Mkhitaryan after he became injured against Spurs at the weekend. Replaced by Lingard with twenty minutes remaining.

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6 Paul Pogba

The Frenchman the ABU's love to hate played some great football against Palace. Pogba opened the scoring for United after being assisted by Zlatan in the final seconds of the first half.

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Ratings: Paul Pogba starred in his best performance for Manchester United

The captain did not look at his best form on his return to the starting XI. He could have had some good shots, but his first touch, the fact he under hit his passes, added to his slowness suggests that his best days are gone. Replaced by Rashford with ten minutes remaining.

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10 Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The Swedish striker assisted in Pogba's opening goal of the match, also taking a free-kick for United in the second half, which was well off target, despite beinghit with some speed. Scored United second goal, with a great inish after being assisted by Pogba.

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Substitutes

Matteo Darmian

Replaced Bailly. Laced some ability to defend, which is what he's required to do. Started well at United, but now looks so far from the player that was brought to the club less than two-years ago.

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14 Jesse Lingard

Replaced Mata. Added some pace to the squad. Played well with his teammates.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Replaced Rooney. Booked minutes after coming on. Did not really get into the game. Early days to write him off.

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Report: Pogba and Zlatan seal victory against Palace

Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park with Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic becoming that stars of the match, each scoring a goal and assisting for one another. Juan Mata found the back of the net too, but it was ruled out for offside. Marcos Rojo will be in hot water with the manager after a poor tackle could have cost the club, his second in the last three matches. United took all three points back to Old Trafford though, keeping their run going. Nine matches unbeaten in all competitions.

Jose Mourinho made a few changes for the visit to Crystal Palace with Eric Bailly playing as a right-back, Daley Blind playing as the left-back, Michael Carrick back in the centre of midfield and both Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney both starting either side of Paul Pogba, who plays just behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ander Herrera and David De Gea also started the match. United’s team lacked some pace, which could be a problem against Palace, but with Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young, and Marcus Rashford all on the bench, pace is something which can be added, should it be needed, and it might. United have been in some good form for a while now, perhaps that will prevail tonight.

United started the match brightly, but it could have been the end of the evening for Bailly, who seemed to injure his knee, spending some time on the sidelines and coming back into the match. United had been getting forward at times, seeking that opening goal of the evening. In the 13th minute of the match, Matteo Darmian, who was warming up, was called back to the bench, seemingly suggesting that Bailly was fit enough to continue. Pogba had a speculative effort on goal, which did not trouble the Palace keeper. United, despite trying to advance and find an opening goal, were being thwarted by the home side.

Bailly was challenged by Lee, who appeared to drive his studs, albeit accidentally into his knee, which saw him on the ground in pain once again, but he was back up and battling moments later, Michael Carrick then suffered a challenge from Benteke, who seemingly kicked the sole of his boot, but he was able to continue. United were again dominating in possession, only a matter of time before United turned the screw and went for all three points this evening. Marcos Rojo gave Palace a free-kick just outside of the United area in the 34th minute of the match, which amounted to nothing with Pogba heading it out of danger.

In the 37th minute of the match, United were on the attack through Mata, who passed the ball out from the flank and it was then set up for an on-rushing Rooney to tee up a shot, which was thwarted by Hennessey. Palace immediately went on the attack with Zaha on the advance and Rojo then took him out. The Argentinian was lucky to only be shown a yellow card, for the second time in a week after he appeared to take Zaha out with a two-footed challenge. Luckily for United, the free-kick did not trouble them. United took the lead in the dying seconds of the first half through Paul Pogba, who was set up by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 1-0 to United.

The second half started with no changes for United with Bailly seemingly fine to continue after the break. Palace, however, made a change with Joe Ledley replacing Mathieu Flamini. In the 51st minute of the match, Bailly was once again down and looked likely to not continue the match with Matteo Darmian replacing him. For ten minutes after the United substitution, United were in control of the game, challenging Palace in their own area for much of the time. Just after the hour mark of the match, Palace had a chance on goal with David De Gea making a great save to thwart the home side.

Palace equalised in the 67th minute of the match through McArthur with Rojo failing to pick up his man in the box before the goal. United now needed to get back into the match, scoring a second goal. The Palace fans, who had been very much silent throughout the match, despite needing a megaphone in the stands, erupted when their team was back in it. United then went straight on the attack from the kick-off with Rooney going for goal and Hennessey saving his side from going 2-1 down. United took the lead minutes later through Juan Mata, but the goal was disallowed for being offside, with the reply looking much different.

Once again, poor refereeing seems to have changed the game. Both United and Palace had made from poor decisions by the referee and linesman, which will never change as if anyone associated with either team will be charged by the FA for bringing the game into disrepute. Mourinho made his second change with Jesse Lingard replacing Mata. United, still on the attack were looking to take the lead again, hoping to return to Manchester with all three points in the bag. On the 80th minute, Marcus Rashford replaced Rooney, who still could not find that goal to match the record set by Sir Bobby Charlton.

All was not going well for United, but some great play by Paul Pogba helped United get back in front, setting up for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to find the back of the net. United were 2-1 up and sure to take all three points back to Manchester, capitalising on Arsenal, who so far, were the only team to drop points in these midweek matches. Pogba was named the Man of the Match by BT Sport and deservedly so, being that he has been the player pulling the strings for attacking play this evening. United were home and dry, all three points going back to Manchester, with United now looking ahead to Saturday’s match against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns. Come on UNITED!

Goals: Paul Pogba 45+2′, Zlatan Ibrahimovic 88′

Assists: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 45+2′, Paul Pogba 88′

Manchester United: De Gea; Bailly (Darmian 52′), Jones, Rojo, Blind; Carrick, Herrera; Mata (Lingard 71′), Pogba, Rooney (Rashford 80′); Ibrahimovic

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Young, Fellaini, Schweinsteiger

Bookings: Marcos Rojo 38′, Paul Pogba 70′, Marcus Rashford 84′

copyright: JW