Manchester United entertain West Brom at Old Trafford on Saturday having finally broken their near 7 hour drought of football against CSKA Moscow of neither scoring nor conceding a goal.
Their last three games in all competitions were goalless draws before Tuesday night and it was captain Wayne Rooney’s header which finally brought relief to an agitated Old Trafford crowd who were pushed to booing Louis van Gaal’s introduction of Marouanne Fellaini as his side once again struggled to break the deadlock.
Despite the uninspiring football over recent weeks, United sit in fourth place just four points off the top behind joint leaders Manchester City and Arsenal.
West Brom meanwhile are 12th in the table and are on the back of a crushing 3-2 home defeat to high flying Leicester City who themselves are a place and a point ahead of the Baggies’ opponents this weekend.
Prior to that, they had pulled away from the relegation zone with two consecutive 1-0 wins over Sunderland at home and at Norwich City.
The pattern of the play should be United dominating possession and finding it hard to break down the Baggies who will be happy to defend in two banks of four and hit United on the break.
Phil Jones and Morgan Schneiderlin should make their returns from health issues while Wayne Rooney is expected to start once again having silenced his critics for the moment who had been asking for him to be dropped on the back of some poor performances.
Antonio Valencia and James Wilson are both doubtful due to injuries while Paddy Mcnair and Luke Shaw continue to be absentees.
Former Reds Jonny Evans and Darren Fletcher are both expected to play for West Brom but former United goalkeeper Ben Foster continues to come back to a return from a long-term knee problem, although Jonny Evans and Darren Fletcher will start against the ex-club. Chris Brunt is a doubt having picked up an injury late on last week.
Last Five Meetings
02 May 2015 Man. Utd. 0 – 1 West Brom. Premier League
20 Oct 2014 West Brom. 2 – 2 Man. Utd. Premier League
08 Mar 2014 West Brom 0 – 3 Man. Utd. Premier League
28 Sep 2013 Man. Utd. 1 – 2 West Brom. Premier League
19 May 2013 West Brom. 5 – 5 Man. Utd. Premier League
- Manchester United have created the fewest chances of any team in the Premier League this season (81) with West Brom the second worst in that regard (82).
- Manchester United have the league’s joint-best defence with Arsenal, conceding just eight goals and a league high seven clean sheets.
- Man Utd have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 matches in the Premier League.
- West Brom have won five and lost just two of their last nine BPL matches on the road.
- Having won 1-0 at Old Trafford last season and 2-1 the season before that, West Brom will become only the second team in Premier League to win three successive matches at Old Trafford if they win on Saturday. Manchester City won three in a row from 2011/12 to 2013/14.
- West Brom have lost just one of their last five Premier League matches against Manchester United.
- West Brom have conceded just once in their five away games in the Premier League this season.
- There have been 21 goals between the two teams in their last five meetings including an astonishing 5-5 draw in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game in charge before his retirement.
- Wayne Rooney has seven goals and four assists in his last seven Premier League starts against the West Brom.
Manchester United: Anthony Martial
Martial started off his Old Trafford career in a blitz, although things have mellowed down for the 19 year-old wonderkid with just 1 goal in 9 starts for both club and country. He did register an assist in each of his last two appearances for France though goals have dried up at club level since the 3-0 win over Everton.
His pace, close control, dribbling skills, technique, first touch, strength, composure and decision-making skills are unique for someone who is not even twenty. 2.9 aerial duels per game along with 3.4 dribbles completed on an average so far highlight why he has been marked by two players when United played against Palace and City.
On Saturday, he will have the responsibility to take some pressure off the shoulders of Rooney by bouncing back from what he himself admitted was a ‘bad performance’ against CSKA Moscow.
West Brom: Salomon Rondon
West Brom’s club-record signing of £12 million has slowly begun to find his feet in England’s top flight and ease some pressure having scored in his last two games in the league.
The striker netted 20 times for Zenit St Petersburg last season and it was the 5th season in a row he had reached double figures for the season including his stints at Malaga and Rubin Kazan before that, which shows that the instincts of a finisher are clearly there.
However, he is struggling a bit under Pulis’ style of playing him as a lone striker on a number of occasions.
The gap between him and the midfielders is too much at times and it’s a difficult task to hold the ball up by himself. Despite his size and ability to hold up the ball, he prefers playing on the shoulder of the last defender and also waiting in the box for crosses from out wide.
On the back of his successive goals, the Venezuela international wants to continue getting on the scoresheet.
“I don’t set any targets in terms of goals, I just want to score as many as possible,” he said.
I have scored three goals so far this season, but I am not satisfied because I want to score more goals.
The team is counting on me as a goal scorer so I know that I have to score as many as possible.
There have been 11 games in the Premier League so far so there is obviously plenty of the season left to play.”
The number of eyes watching him in the 12th game will be the most this season and Rondon has a chance to make a big impact.
1-0 to United.