Manchester United will be looking to bounce back from their 3-0 humbling at Goodison Park when West Brom role into Old Trafford on Saturday. West Brom have proven to be a thorn in United’s side in recent meetings. West Brom managed to avoid defeat against United in 3 of their last 4 meetings. This includes a 2-1 victory when the two met at Old Trafford last season. Van Gaal will know that a victory against West Brom on Saturday will all but confirm their top 4 finish meaning he will have met his target of returning United to the Champions League. However, Tony Pulis will know that even a point at Old Trafford should see West Brom out of any danger of slipping into the bottom 3 before the season’s end. Albion are on 37 points as it stands and should be just about out of danger but that won’t mean that Pulis won’t want to make sure of that fact as much as he can. It should make for a good fixture with both sides basically looking to end their season on Saturday for the better.
The biggest blow for Manchester United heading into this fixture is the injury to Wayne Rooney. Van Gaal confirmed after the Everton disaster that Rooney had picked up a knee injury but they couldn’t comment on the severity of it at that stage. There are stories going round that it isn’t that serious and others saying that he could be out for up to a month missing the remainder of the season. Either way, it would seem that at the very least the United captain will not be available for West Brom’s visit. Full-back Rafael continues to miss out since he is still scheduled to miss out for another 5 weeks. Michael Carrick, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo are down for returns in two days meaning they could at least make the match day. Carrick will be the name fans want to see back to confirm top four as United’s form with him is better than it is when he is missing.
Heading into their visit to Old Trafford, Albion manager Tony Pulis only has the long term absentee of Ben Foster on his injury list. The keeper is still out for another 5 months.
- Last the two sides met at Old Trafford West Brom left 2-1 winners in September 2013.
- Wayne Rooney has scored the most goals in this Premier League fixture with 6 goals against West Brom
- Last time United beat West Brom at Old Trafford was December 2012
- Sir Alex Ferguson’s last match in charge of Manchester United was against West Brom at the Hawthorns. That game ended 5-5 in May 2013
- West Brom have only ever managed 12 victories at Old Trafford in their history.
- The first game between the two sides was back when Man United were still Newton Heath. It was a 0-0 at West Brom in October 1892.
- First game between the two sides when United were Manchester United was a second division fixture in November 1904. United were 2-0 winners.
Manchester United: Ander Herrera
Ander Herrera’s 5 goals and 4 assists from central midfield perhaps doesn’t truly reflect his contribution to Manchester united in what has been a very stop start debut year for the Spaniard. Herrera’s presence in midfield makes a noticeable difference to United’s fluidity. His 89% pass accuracy helps represent his ability to recycle the ball to keep possession ticking over. However, he also isn’t afraid of a direct pass and run out of midfield into the final third. It seems to be a trait lost in centre midfielders, playing a direct pass into the feet of the striker and joining the attack. There is a lot of sideways passing for possession purposes rather than effective passing for goal scoring purposes. Herrera on his day can represent both sides of that coin for Man United.
West Brom: Craig Gardner
Craig Gardner’s 2 goals in his last 3 games has taken his tally for the season to 3. This makes him West Brom’s 3rd top scorer in the league this season, which reflects how poor they have been in front of goal. However, as a player Gardner has always been reliable to chip in with his share of goals throughout the season and they usually have a touch of the spectacular about them. Gardner is Premier League veteran now having spent his career plying his trade for a variety of teams in the league: Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Sunderland and now West Bromwich Albion. It is his experience that they will need during a match against United at Old Trafford. Like others in his team he is a player that has been there done that and got all the t-shirts. It is experience like his that West Brom will find invaluable when closing out this season while navigating themselves to safety.
After last week’s humbling away to Everton you would expect a big response from Manchester United. They were in fact lucky that rivals Liverpool only managed to pick up 1 point from their two fixtures last week. Had they managed to pick up two victories United’s Champions League spot could’ve been under serious threat. All the same a win against West Brom on Saturday will keep Liverpool 8 points away in 5th with only 3 games remaining. A win would also mean should Liverpool drop any points against QPR on Saturday they will confirm their top 4 finish, meaning they will have achieved their goal for the season. This motivation should be enough to pick up 3 points against West Brom. West Brom are on 37 points, which as it stands should see them safe, perhaps another point or two between now and the season’s end would confirm that. They will make life difficult for United as they have done in recent meetings between the sides. However, I see Van Gaal getting a response from his side this week and they pick up the 3 points at home.
2-0 Manchester United win