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What We Learned: Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be 35, but he’s world class

Manchester United beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 in the Premier League at The Hawthorns on Saturday evening. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his 15th and 16th goals this season, making it ten goals in the last nine matches and eleven goals in the Premier League alone. Many of the ABU’s will be surprised that the Swedish striker has proven them wrong this season, but it is not hard to prove a moron wrong, is it? United have been playing some great football for months, grinding out some results in cup competitions, but falling blank in the league with three draws in a row at one stage, six in total this season. United though, seem to have turned their fortunes around at the right time, winning three league matches in a row, going into the Christmas period with two home matches and a visit to the tax-payers stadium in London, in order to keep their fortunes high into 2017.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The 35-year-old Swede has been a bright light in this Manchester United side led by Jose Mourinho this season. Many had him written off before he even arrived at the club, based on his age, the fact he was going to play in a new, tougher league and the fact he had a poor campaign in the European Championships in France during the summer. Knowing that a striker with the ability to score at least twenty goals a season was missing, Mourinho bringing Ibrahimovic to the club for nothing was a masterstroke. Many said he would not score more than ten goals, but he eclipsed that some weeks ago, scoring his 15th and 16th goals this evening, making it ten goals in the last nine matches, eleven in the Premier League this season. With United not having that goalscoring ability last season is all the more better to have it now. The Premier League title may be heading to Chelsea this season, but United will be up for causing a few upsets along the way with Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur all standing in their way.

Paul Pogba

The Frenchman is still being classed as a waste of money by the ABU’s yet he has been playing consistently for weeks now, putting another match into United’s grasp with his decent display on and off the ball. United seem to be a more complete team with Pogba in the mix, which would suggest what it might have been like if he was given the role as the replacement for Paul Scholes four years ago, instead of allowing Pogba to leave the club after Scholes ended his retirement for a season and a half. Pogba is a class player, well-respected by his teammates and the fans. Pogba had unfinished business at United, many seem to think a large fee for a player should only be spent if that player brings in goals, as apparently only results matter in football, not performances. There was be thinking that performances were what got you results, but it seems I might have a lot to learn, albeit sarcastically. Pogba is a great addition to United this season, scoring five goals and assisting in three others in all competitions, which is not great, but when you look at the fact he’s more of a provider than a goalscorer or an assist machine, which will remain to be his role at the club. With Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all providing and assisting goals, what Pogba brings to the table in the form of assists and goal is an added bonus.

Wayne Rooney’s elusive 249th goal

Wayne Rooney was an unlucky player against West Bromwich Albion, very close to eclipsing the record set by Sir Bobby Charlton in the 1970’s. Rooney thunderous effort towards goal could well have seem him match the record set by the legendary United player. Rooney’s form has been questionable this season, playing against Palace earlier in the week saw a rather pathetic Rooney play, not being able to do much with his poor first touch, his overhitting of balls and just his general bad play. On Saturday though, Rooney played well, having that effort on goal which could have changed the course of history for the player. That 249th goal is elusive with Charlton being able to wake up on Christmas Day as the record holder, but with United playing Sunderland and Middlesbrough on Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, it may not be a record he takes into 2017.

Jose Mourinho has found the real Manchester United and is making them stand up

Jose Mourinho has been a massive change for Manchester United this season. His transfer business in the summer was great; bringing in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and also getting the return of Paul Pogba sanctioned. The start of the season was great, but three defeats in a row soon made things sour, with disgruntled supporter moaning about the manager, suggesting he was the wrong guy for the job. United then turned things around, but after a defeat or a draw, the discontent would soon return, with so-called supporters moaning once again, calling for the manager to be sacked and commencing in their speculation about who would be the next man coming in as the manager, not once thinking about the devastating effects this sort of business does to the players, not to mention of the reputation of the club. The thing is, I never wanted Mourinho, but I have grown to accept his appointment and I now value him for proving me wrong. It is a shame the fickle supporters United have in various countries don’t do the same. I for one, am sick and tired of glory hunting football supporters trying to call the shots and get themselves values as ‘die hard’ supporters. Mourinho has inspired his United side in to what they have become at this stage of the season. Turning Mkhitaryan from a flop into an immense player with his guidance, giving him the time to adapt, find confidence and show that. His recent injury was a blow, but he will soon be back inspiring his teammates to victories once more, pushing the Manchester United way into oppositions faces, helping the club achieve something this season, which has to be UEFA Champions League football next season. So far, so good for Mourinho and his men, onwards and upwards.

Report: Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the double in Baggies victory

Manchester United beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 after Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a brace either side of the half to five United into three back-to-back victories in the Premier League, the tenth match in a row United have avoided defeat. Ibrahimovic, a 35-year-old striker in the twilight of his career was apparently a guy that could not cut in in the Premier League with many of the ABU’s suggesting he would not score many goals. 16 scored so far though proves them wrong., which is like Santa Claus giving us presents a week early, in a way.

Jose Mourinho made three changes to the side that beat Crystal Palace on Wednesday evening with Antonio Valencia back from suspension, Matteo Darmian replacing Daley Blind at left-back and Jesse Lingard replacing Juan Mata on the right-wing. Fatigue will be at play with this United side, who were in action just three days ago against Crystal Palace, earning a 2-1 victory over Alan Pardew’s side. United would need to be at their best in order to get the better of Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion. United started the match brightly, getting a goal inside the first five minutes with Jesse Lingard putting in a superb delivery, assisting Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 15th goal of the season, scored from a header.

United could have conceded in the 12th minute of the match after giving away a free-kick, but David De Gea had it covered. United were playing well, getting forward and could have had a few more chances on goal. The Baggies were trying to change the plan of the game, though, edging forward and trying to get something to go their way. So far, though, United were on top of the game, once again. Wayne Rooney could have had his 249th goal for United with a stunning shot from the edge of the box, only the crossbar thwarting his attempt. Unlucky for United there. He will be up for matching that record even more now.

Ibrahimovic was shown a yellow card in the 24th minute for a reckless challenge, which was deemed lucky by the commentary team suggesting he was another player to avoid a red card; with Marcos Rojo lucky in two matches recently. Just after the half hour, Salomon Rondon could have put the Baggies level with a superb header towards goal, but it was off target. Good attempt, though. United needed to ease the pressure by keeping the ball for longer periods, pushing forward and trying to double their lead. United defensive pairing Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo have dealt with everything thrown at them so far in the match, which was good to see.

In the final minute of the half, United were on the attack, looking bright, Matteo Darmian had an attempt on goal, which was deflected and saw Jesse Lingard run into the box with the ball and have an attempt himself, which was taken from an angle, lofting it over the crossbar. United could have ended the half in style. Judging the first half though, it was a physical battle, one which United were on top of, leading 1-0 at the break with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s early goal. United have 45 minutes to play yet and need to secure the win, ideally, which could be tough with the Baggies looking for any chance to get back into the match.

The second half started with neither side making any changes, but with the Baggies needing to try and change the course of the match. United were still playing some good attacking football and United were still on top of the match. In the 55th minute of the match, Paul Pogba tried to catch the keeper, from distance, off his line, but Foster got to the ball to thwart any attempt. Moments later, Zlatan scored his 16th goal of the season, his tenth in nine matches, putting United 2-0 up and commanding the match at The Hawthorns. There was a bit of a scuffle between Rojo and Rondon in the area, some pushing, shoving and a slap, which resulted in both players being yellow carded.

The Baggies were trying to get something back from the match around the 70th minute, winning a corner in the 72nd minute, amounting to nothing apart from a few jeers as Pogba’s arm touched the ball, ball to hand, from the deflection. Penalty not given. United then went on the attack, looking for more from the match and Lingard was then took out by Olsson. The Baggies made their first change with James Morrison replacing Craig Dawson. The home side won a free-kick after Darmian fouled on the edge of the box, but like everything else, it amounted to nothing. Tony Pulis should be awarded the best-dressed man in the Black Country, though!

Mourinho made his first change of the match with Marcus Rashford replacing Lingard in the 77th minute of the match. The Baggies made two more changes in the 82nd minute of the match with Hal Robson-Kanu and Jonathan Leko replacing Matt Phillips and Nacer Chadli. Marouane Fellaini, warming up for United was Mourinho’s second substitution, replacing Wayne Rooney with Michael Carrick taking the captain’s armband for the remainder of the match. United were still in the driving seat, playing the kind of football you would expect from the club, guiding home all three points, their third Premier League win in a row and their tenth match without defeat.

Chris Brunt was given a yellow card for an obvious shoulder barge on Marcus Rashford in the 87th minute of the match as the youngster broke ahead of him, it was all he could do to avoid costing his side another goal. United have not won here since the season under David Moyes, drawing the season after and losing last season. Sir Alex Ferguson’s last match here was a 5-5 thriller in the 2012/13 season. Chris Smalling was Mourinho’s third and final change of the match with the England defender replacing Ander Herrera. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was named BT Sports Man of the Match, deservedly so.

United have eight days of rest before facing David Moyes’ Sunderland on Boxing Day, meaning United will be sixth for Christmas, well in a position to get back into the top four this season, and still with Manchester City v Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley and Everton v Liverpool to come between now and Monday, meaning this result could be a much better one for United, who are now level on points with Spurs, but nine goals behind them on goal difference. Merry Christmas United fans.

Goals: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 5′, 56′

Assists: Jesse Lingard 5′, Wayne Rooney 56′

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian; Carrick, Herrera (Smalling 90+2′); Lingard (Rashford 77′), Pogba, Rooney (Fellaini 84′); Ibrahimovic

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Blind; Mata, Martial

Bookings: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 24′, Jesse Lingard 57′, Marcos Rojo 65′

CONFIRMED: Carrick, Herrera, Pogba and Ibrahimovic start against West Brom

Manchester United will to head-to-head with West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns in the Premier League this evening, having won their last two league matches; beating Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace, also going on a run of nine matches without a defeat. United may not be in the form of Chelsea, who have won eleven matches in a row at this stage of the season, but aside of domestic competitions, Chelsea has not had European football to contend with, which has been something that he left United wondering what could have been. Jose Mourinho’s side have been playing some good football over the past few months, but that has not always seen United victorious losing three league matches and drawing six in the sixteen matches already played in the league this season. The likes of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and David De Gea have produced at times to get United victorious again. The last nine matches undefeated will mean nothing if United leave the Black Country with anything less than three much-needed points. It is expected that United finish this weekend in sixth place again, keeping the chase on fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, unless they end up losing this weekend when they entertain Burnley, which could see United go level on points, goal difference separating them.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian;

Carrick, Herrera;

Lingard, Pogba, Rooney;

Ibrahimovic

Substitutes:

Romero; Smalling, Blind; Mata, Martial, Fellaini; Rashford

West Bromwich Albion:

Foster;

Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Nyom;

Fletcher, Yacob;

Brunt, Chadli, Phillips;

Rondon

Substitutes:

Myhill; Galloway; Morrison; Gardner, McClean; Robson-Kanu, Leko

Preview: West Brom stand in the way of a perfect run up to Christmas

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich

Premier League 2016/17

Saturday 17th December 2016 – KO 17:30 [Live on BT Sport]

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Assistant Referees: Stephen Child and Ian Hussin

Fourth Official: Paul Tierney

Manchester United will battle against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns in the Premier League on Saturday evening, their last match before Christmas, meaning United have eight days rest before their next match, against Sunderland at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. United are in some good form at this stage of the season, being undefeated in their last nine matches in all competitions, winning their last two in the Premier League – last doing that back in August. Jose Mourinho seems to have found the formula to grind the results, which is one of the things United have been feared for doing over the past decades, and should that return, the fear factor both at home and away, could well be back again with aplomb.

Against Crystal Palace on Wednesday night, United dominated their opposition and could have scored a number of goals had decisions by the officials been correct. Saying that, United should have had Marcos Rojo sent off, but only a yellow card was given. United scored through Paul Pogba at the end of the first half, a goal which will make the ABU’s moan with United getting all the decisions, but the goal stood and that is all that counted. United conceded in the 66th minute, which seemed to be the start of that same old story again, but Juan Mata put United ahead, or so he had though, with that perfectly fine goal being disallowed. Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck to give United all three points in true Manchester United fashion.

West Brom will be a tough match for United. The Baggies are player well at this point of the season, only losing five matches all season, playing 16 matches. Saying that, if United are playing the standard of football they need to be, it should not be a problem for them. United can attack with pace, but only of players will pace are involved. Against Palace, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata were deployed on the wing. If Anthony Martial replaced Rooney, that would add something different on the left, but Mata will be expected to play on the right, due to Henrikh Mkhitaryan being on the sidelines through injury, with the Armenian expected to be back on Boxing Day, hopefully. It would be good to see Mkhitaryan back this weekend, though.

Mourinho is expected to be without Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan with Tony Pulis likely to be without Jonny Evans, Boaz Myhill and Saido Berahino. United have the squad depth to form a decent side without the players on the sidelines, but they need to be up for the challenge of defeating West Brom at home, something that many have done this season, but in their last three Premier League home matches, they have taken all three points, scoring ten goals and conceding just two – beating Burnley 4-0, Watford 3-1 and Swansea City 3-1. United should be able to do what they need to. If teams above them drop points again this weekend, with only Arsenal doing that midweek, United could soon be back inside the top five, on their rise to the top four.

Manchester United Form:- WWWDW

Crystal Palace 2-1 W, Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 W, Zorya Luhansk 2-0 W, Everton 1-1 D, West Ham United 4-1 W

Manchester United have started to find their form over the past few matches, producing back-to-back victories in the Premier League against Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace for the first time since August this season. United are unbeaten in nine matches in all competitions, and a run of wins is on the cards, should United be up for taking all three points back to Manchester this weekend, which needs to happen. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored eight matches in as many matches at this stage of the season, which is some good form for the Swedish striker. Paul Pogba seems to be finding his feet too, which is good as those jealous about the player arrival in Manchester can soon feast their eyes at what he can do.

West Bromwich Albion Form:- DWLLL

Swansea City 3-1 W, Chelsea 1-0 L, Watford 3-1 W, Hull City 1-1 D, Burnley 4-0 W

West Bromwich Albion have had an impressive start to the season, losing only five matches in the 16 Premier League matches played so far this season. Tony Pulis knows how to set up a team tactically, which makes any match against a team he manages a hard-fought one. United against the Baggies will be nothing less than that. In this fixture last season, the Baggies won 1-0 and the season prior to that, United managed a 2-2 draw, which was a tough match to watch. Pulis’ side will be looking to maintain their form against United in the Premier League recently, only David Moyes in the 2013/14 season beat the Baggies at the Hawthorns in the league – the season prior to that was a 5-5 draw – Sir Alex Ferguson’s last match as manager of the Red Devils.

Manchester United Top Scorers:

14 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 5 – Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, 4 – Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, 3 – Jesse Lingard, Wayne Rooney, 2 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 1 – Michael Carrick, Own Goal, Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling

West Bromwich Albion Top Scorers:

7 – Salomón Rondón, 4 – Nacer Chadli, Gareth McAuley, 3 – Matt Phillips, 2 – James McClean, James Morrison, 1 – Chris Brunt, Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher

Manchester United Squad;

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Sam Johnstone

Defenders: Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Axel Tuanzebe

Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford

Injuries and Suspensions: Chris Smalling (foot), Luke Shaw (knock), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (ankle), Eric Bailly (knee)

West Bromwich Albion Squad:

Manager: Tony Pulis

Goalkeepers: Ben Foster, Boaz Myhill

Defenders: Allan Nyom, Jonas Olsson, Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Craig Dawson, Kane Wilson

Midfielders: Claudio Yacob, James Morrison, Craig Gardner, Matt Phillips, Chris Brunt, James McClean, Brendon Galloway, Nacer Chadli, Darren Fletcher, Sam Field

Forwards: Hal Robson-Kanu, Salomón Rondón, Saido Berahino, Jonathan Leko

Injuries and Suspensions: Jonny Evans (calf), Boaz Myhill (ankle), Saido Berahino (fitness)

Predicted Starting XI:

Predicted Score:

West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Manchester United

Starting XI Prediction: Martial to be recalled; Valencia returns from suspension

Manchester United take on West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns in the Premier League on Saturday evening, in a match that Jose Mourinho’s side will be looking to win, in order to keep their run of form continuing. United beat Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Wednesday, making it nine matches unbeaten in all competitions since their defeat away to Fenerbahçe in the UEFA Europa League. United have been playing some good football over the past few months, with that starting to take head currently, with the play, possession and everything else all starting to fall into place. Should United continue grinding out results, the footballing world will soon start to see the sleeping dragon wake and before we know it, Manchester United could be back in their place within the pinnacle of world football.

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

Goalkeeper – David De Gea

The Spanish goalkeeper may not be keeping clean sheets, but he is showing the type of form to show what he offers to the team. United have had ups and downs this season and despite the discontent you may see on social media, the downs have not been as bad as they have been over the last three years or so. In fact, the downs have been more like ups when you cast your mind back. De Gea is a world class goalkeeper and keeping him at United has given the club a benchmark for the future, one where legends can be born. Under Jose Mourinho, De Gea has continued his form, which has not produced the best of his abilities yet, but will continue doing that, especially when the manager has created a team that plays to his style.

Defenders – Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind

The defence has been subject of some problems this season. Injuries to Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw seem to have caused problems, but also seems to have brought out the best of Phil Jones, who has suffered his own injury problems over the last few years and Marcos Rojo, who despite being a reborn player under Mourinho, seems to have been very lucky to have not been sent off in the last two Premier League matches. Wednesday’s victory over Crystal Palace saw United struggle without Antonio Valencia, who was suspended after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season, meaning Bailly, fresh from a knee injury, starting in that position, suffering another injury, to his other knee. Valencia being back will be a big relief for United and Mourinho. Shaw may miss this match, which means Daley Blind could fill in at left-back again, who is a better candidate over Matteo Darmian, who has played that position over the last few weeks, but his overlapping play and the fact he uses his right foot seem to make me think it is not his best position, which does not seem to be as a right-back either.

Midfielders – Ander Herrera, Bastian Schweinsteiger

Ander Herrera is the man of the moment for United, a player who is giving his all for the club. Herrera seems to be the manager go to guy to get things done. He runs the show at times, runs for miles throughout the match and does all he can to try and get things moving once again. Michael Carrick would be my first choice to partner Herrera in midfield, but as he played 90 minutes on Wednesday against Palace, he might not be fresh for the match against the Baggies, which will be another tough encounter. Marouane Fellaini will probably get the nod, but I would rather see Bastian Schweinsteiger ahead of the Belgian. I feel he can offer the same service as Carrick, maybe in a different way, but his experience and calmness on the ball might help United get all three points again, which will also release Paul Pogba to get more involved, giving him te chance to carve another great performance in the Premier League on Saturday.

Attacking Midfield – Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial

United have a great attack, but with Henrikh Mkhitaryan still expected to be on the sidelines through injury, Juan Mata should get the nod once again. He put in a great performance at Palace, scoring the second goal, which was unfortunately disallowed, albeit a wrong decision. Mata, despite not having the pace, makes up for that with his mind, which puts him ahead of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young, who will all be fresher than the Spaniard, but he must start. Paul Pogba, fresh from his Man of the Match performance against Palace will start again, in the number ten role, which is a great position for him to play in, as long as Herrera and Carrick, or even Schweinsteiger are playing, which frees him up to go forward and pull the strings in the attack, which he has been good at in recent weeks. Anthony Martial should be recalled into the side this weekend, being rested from the midweek match, as Wayne Rooney on the left-wing was frustrating to watch with the player not being up to spec, slow and poor with his judgement both on and off the ball. Martial needs a few games to find some form, just like last season, and when he does, United will be electric in attack.

Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 14 goals for United this season, despite what Michael Owen thinks, all of them have been important as over the past few seasons, United have not had that kind of goal scorer, not for the want of trying. The Swedish striker has scored eight goals in eight matches in all competitions, which suggests that he should be the first name on the team sheet, or at least one of them. Zlatan is a winner, he likes to win and wants to win. Having him in the team will only push that mentality out to the rest of the team, who will end up wanting the same thing. United are on a good run, so is Zlatan, keeping him in the line-up is the sane thing to do. He is a player not quite in the best form of his life, but he is in form.

copyright: JW