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Ratings: Fernandes scored 19th goal of the season in Baggies draw; United unable to penetrate Baggies defence

Manchester United drew 1-1 with West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns in the Premier League. It was a poor start by United as Victor Lindelof seemed t be fouled by Mbaye Diagne, who then beat David De Gea in just over 80 seconds of the match being played. United seemed to lack urgency for a period and failed to break into the match. In the 44th minute though, Bruno Fernandes found the equaliser to get United back into the game but despite Manny attempts to, did not find a winning goal. The Baggies almost scored two more times with Diagne on the break and De Gea managing to get most of his effort on the ball to change its direction. It will be seen as a poor result for United, but a worse one for the Baggies who are 12 points adrift of safety.

It was another terrible start for the United in the Premier League. The Baggies got the ball into the box as quickly as possible, putting pressure on United’s defence, which is frail. Mbaye Diagne seemed to impede Victor Lindelof inn the box, putting his hand over his face, and rising to put the ball into the back of the next, past David De Gea, who failed to attempt a save. It was something that United have been used to this season, going behind early in the match and once again, they would need to overcome the early storm and seek to punish their opposition. This would need to change for United in order for them to move forward. The defence always seems to have a terrible display in them, which is obviously not good enough.

Despite United gaining the majority of possession, the Baggies were punishing United with their set-pieces showing United’s fragility in the defence; the inability to win aerial challenges. United got forward quite a lot in the first half but the Baggies were happy to sit back and mop up that pressure. United had one shot on goal, which was also on target but not quite anything to write home about. In the last minute of the first half, United pulled something out of the bag with Bruno Fernandes scoring his 19th goal of the season. Luke Shaw fired the ball into the box from the left, seemingly seeking Edinson Cavani, however, Fernandes lifted his leg up for the volley, firing past former United academy goalkeeper, Sam Johnstone.

At the start of the second half, United continued their dominance in possession and seeking that winner in a game that could still go either way. In the opening 10 minutes of the second half, the Baggies had just 16% of the ball, which was pathetic. There was little to write home about until a penalty was awarded by the referee after Harry Maguire was seemingly fouled in the box around the hour mark of the match. After viewing VAR, the penalty was withdrawn and play continued. In the 66th minute of the match, Mason Greenwood was brought on to replace Anthony Martial, who never really got himself into the match, which should be a worry for him as his form diminishes after his goal-scoring efforts last season.

United were still pushing for the elusive winning goal in the second half, having the majority of the ball still with the Baggies defending in numbers like a team that already knows their fate. When teams play like this, you never feel sorry for them when relegation comes calling. De Gea made a good save to deny Diagne once again after the Baggies forward seemingly fouled Maguire inn his own box then tried to get his second goal of the game with De Gea forcing himself out to change the direction of the ball to get it away from danger. The Baggies will be upset that a second goal did not come as they desperately need the points just to get back to where they were yesterday, which would see them still 12 points from safety with a draw, 10 with a win.

There was five minutes added at the end of the match with United still in charge of possession and pushing for that winner, which still was not coming. The Baggies had a few chances to score again, despite playing for the majority of the match in their own half, defending in numbers, which is a pathetic way to play football, especially with the club 12 points from safety with the score at 1-1. In these situations, clubs like the Baggies should be doing more to win, not defend. Harry Maguire had a shot on goal in the last minute of added time with Johnstone forced to make the save with the ball clattering the near post. Some will say it was a brilliant save but others will say it was lucky. It was a 1-1 draw with United needing to do a lot more to get the points on the board.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Conceded the first goal of the game inside the second minute. Did not look confident of his ability. Made a good save to deny Snodgrass in the first half. In the second half, with Diagne through after clattering Maguire, made a crucial save to change the direction of the ball to stop a second goal.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Defended well at times, not that United had to be defensively astute as they had the majority of the ball in the Baggies' half. Got forward a lot of the time, which is good to see. It's a shame it did not turn into another victory on the road.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Terrible defending at the start of the match. Diagne took advantage of him, opening the scoring in 80-odd seconds.

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5 Harry Maguire

Led United better after the initial two minutes of the match which saw United concede the first goal of the game again. Got forward a lot of the time as United blew the Baggies out of the water with possession. United seemed to be more on top of the game in the second half of the match, pursuing that elusive winning goal.

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23 Luke Shaw

Seemed under the cosh at times in the first half, at least until United settled and took the Lion's share of the possession. Got another assist for Fernandes' equaliser in the last minute of the first half.

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17 Fred

Played a good game in midfield but could have perhaps done more to get the ball forward to the key men ahead of him. He was replaced by Van de Beek in the 79th minute of the match.

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39 Scott McTominay

Had a back first few minutes as the Baggies took an early lead. Got himself into the game around 15 minutes into it. Had a few shots on Goa in the second half as United's confidence grew.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Had a quiet game. In the first half, he was trying to break through from the right, which is not his best position. In the second half, he had less of an impact for large periods of the half. It is worrying to see the lack of form of the player, which seems to be consistent despite his 16 goals for the club this season.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Seemed to be off his game from the start of the match but like he has done before, he pulled something out of nothing. Shaw crossed the ball into the box from the left and Fernandes volleyed the ball into the back of the next past Johnstone.

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9 Anthony Martial

Had little impact against the Baggies. Perhaps he should not have started at all. Did nothing of note and looked so far off his game. He was rightly replaced by Greenwood in the 66th minute of the match.

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7 Edinson Cavani

Unable to break though a stalwart defence, which involved more that seven men for most of the match. His positioning was good and he tried but luck did not play a part.

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Substitutes

11 Mason Greenwood

Replaced Martial 66'. Seemed livelier than Martial and putt an effort into breaking through into the box but high numbers of Baggies player in the box made it difficult to score. If the Baggies played like this 38 times a season, they might not be in the position they are in.

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34 Donny van de Beek

Replaced Fred 79'. Had 11 minutes plus added time on the pitch. He got into the box but could not create anything with the number of players defending. He needs to play more football and should be whilst Pogba is injured. He's out of form and needs to play consistently to get some kind of form together. It is a shame he's not play more.

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Goals: Mbaye Diagne 2′; Bruno Fernandes 44′

Assists: Conor Gallagher 2′; Luke Shaw 44′

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred (Van de Beek 79′), McTominay; Rashford, Fernandes, Martial (Greenwood 66′); Cavani

Substitutes Not Used: Henderson; Bailly, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe; James, Matic

Bookings: Conor Gallagher 37′, Kyle Bartley 61′, Ainsley Maitland-Niles 79′, Robert Snodgrass 85′, Mbaye Diagne 89′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Cavani, Rashford, Martial and Fernandes start against the Baggies; Greenwood and Van de Beek on the bench

Manchester United return to Premier League action at the Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion this afternoon. 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.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw;

Fred, McTominay;

Rashford, Fernandes, Martial;

Cavani

Substitutes:

Henderson; Bailly, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe; James, Matic, Van de Beek; Greenwood

West Bromwich Albion:

Johnstone;

Peltier, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend;

Maitland-Niles, Yokuslu, Gallagher;

Snodgrass, Diagne, Pereira

Substitutes:

Button; Furlong, O’Shea; Livermore, Phillips, Sawyers; Robson-Kanu, Robinson, Grant

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.

Written by John Walker

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

Preview: Solskjaer to help consign the Baggies to the relegation positions; Cavani, Greenwood and Fernandes to launch United’s attack?

West Bromwich Albion -v- Manchester United

Premier League

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich

Sunday 14 February 2021, KO 14:00 GMT

Referee: Craig Pawson Assistants: Harry Lennard, Richard West

Fourth Official: Jarred Gillett

VAR: Jonathan Moss Assistant VAR: Marc Perry

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.

Manchester United: WDWDLW

West Ham United 1-0 W, Everton 3-3 D, Southampton 9-0 W, Arsenal 0-0 D, Sheffield United 1-2 L, Liverpool 3-2 W

West Bromwich Albion: LLDLLW

Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 L, Sheffield United 2-1 L, Fulham 2-2 D, Manchester City 5-0 L, West Ham United 2-1 L, Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2 W

Top Scorers: The Baggies have scored 24 goals in all competitions this season with Bruno Fernandes (18) and Marcus Rashford (16) outscoring the club. United should be seeking to overthrow their opposition easily to keep them struggling for Premier League survival this season.

Manchester United Goals: 18 – Bruno Fernandes, 16 – Marcus Rashford, 7 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 4 – Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, 3 – Daniel James, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Own Goal, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Victor Lindelof, Donny van de Beek

In the last six matches, United have won three, drawn twice and lost once. Solskjaer’s side have scored 17 goals, conceding seven and keeping three clean sheets. The 9-0 victory over Southampton is the reason why United have increased their goal tally in the past six matches, which is an anomaly based on the other matches which have been played. That said, United go into this match in good form, defeated in only one match and having an unbeaten record on the road, which has broken an old record. Solskjaer’s side should be seeking to breakdown their opposition as soon as possible and playing for the victory. The two hours they played against West Ham United on Tuesday might be costly with players being rested for the match and having to be used.

West Bromwich Albion Goals: 6 – Matheus Pereira, 3 – Semi Ajayi, Callum Robinson, Hal Robson-Kanu, 2 – Kyle Bartley, Conor Gallagher, 1 – Grady Diangana, Darnell Furlong, Karlan Grant, Rekeem Harper, Matt Phillips

The Baggies are inn dire form at this stage of the season. In their last six matches, they have won once, drawn once and lost four times. Allardyce’s side have scored seven goals, conceded 15 and kept no clean sheets. With the team in 19th place in the Premier League table right now and 11 points from safety, if they are unable to beat United and Burnley beat Crystal Palace, which is played at 3pm on Saturday, it could leave the Baggies with 14 points to make up to get out of the bottom three, which is going to put pressure on Allardyce and his squad. It does not look good for their survival in the Premier League this season, which will be a shame for them. I won’t feel sorry for them though. They only have themselves to blame.

Team News: Two players on the sidelines for United and one on the sidelines for the Baggies. Injuries are not really a big factor for either of these sides at this stage of the season.

Phil Jones (knee) and Paul Pogba (thigh) are the only two players on the sidelines for United through injury. Amad Diallo was missing from the U23’s on Friday evening because of illness, which if he recovers in time for Sunday could see him in contention to feature for Solskjaer’s side after appearing in the bench in the 1-0 extra time victory over West Ham United on Tuesday evening. Eric Bailly, who has been missing for the past two matches, could be back in action this weekend, which will be good news for Solskjaer, who has seen his defence play poorly of late, especially in the 3-3 draw with Everton in the Premier League last weekend. Aside of the injuries, Solskjaer’s side will have a relatively full squad for this match.

Grady Diangana (thigh) has a 25% chance of being involved in the clash with United on Sunday afternoon. His participation will be decided after a late fitness test, which may seem unlikely for the player. The Baggies will need to get a good result in this match to have a chance of clawing back an 11-point deficit between them in 19th place and Burnley in 17th place in the Premier League table. However, with Burnley playing on Saturday, facing Crystal Palace, it could be a 14-point deficit by the time the match kicks off on Sunday afternoon between the Baggies and United. Allardyce will have a big job one his hands to try and steer this team away from the relegation zone this season, which seems unlikely at this stage of the season.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani to lead the line against the Baggies? Bruno Fernandes to continue his goal/assist run which has changed United’s fortunes since his arrival? Amad Diallo to recover from illness to feature on the bench against the Baggies?

Solskjaer will be seeking to restore Edinson Cavani to the starting XI against the Baggies with him being the best striker at the club at this period of time. I think there could be a two-man forward formation which should consist of Mason Greenwood as Cavani’s partner. Bruno Fernandes will play in the advanced midfield position inn this formation with a three-man midfield of Scott McTominay, Fred and Donny van de Beek. In defence, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw will play in the fullback roles with Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire partnering in the central defensive area. David De Gea will be recalled after being rested in the Emirate FA Cup on Tuesday evening, which should have given him some time to recover from that 3-3 draw with Everton.

Match Prediction: 25 Premier League matches between United and the Baggies with United winning 16 times, drawing five times and losing four times. Solskjaer’s side should be seeking to add more misery to Allardyce’s side this season.

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.

West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

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

copyright: JW