The Red Devils got back to winning ways against the Baggies with a 2-0 win at Old Trafford. Academy boy Jesse Lingard was the star after he got his first goal for the club before Juan Mata finished things off with a penalty in stoppage time to secure the three points.
There was a minute of silence before the match for Remembrance Day. United started with an unchanged line up from the win against CSKA Moscow in midweek. Martial started through the middle with Wayne Rooney in behind him. Jesse Lingard retained his placed ahead of Memphis Depay. West Brom started with Rondon and Morrison in attack. Berahino and Lambert started from the bench. Prior to this game, United had not scored in 2 successive Premier League matches- drawing blanks.
United dominated the early exchanges with their usual Van Gaal philosophy of starving the opposition of possession and winding them down. West Brom were just happy to sit deep and defend, as has always been the case with Tony Pulis’ team this term. They have conceded the fewest goals away from home this season and they were going to take some breaking down.
United resorted to plenty backwards passes as a result of the resistance posed and this made the game very boring at the beginning. It was defense against attack.
The first clear chance came United’s way when Rooney found Mata after escaping a challenge but the Spaniard missed by inches of the post.
West Brom later started getting a foothold of the game and had a couple of half chances from the odd counter attack through Brunt who almost found Rondon with one of his crosses. Jesse Lingard also came close when he attempted to latch onto a cross from Mata only to be denied by an interception from Dawson.
The game started going one way as it was clear which team was in for the win and which one was looking to settle for a draw. West Brom were tight and disciplined in defense- rarely giving United an inch to have a shot. One would say that with the amount of money spent in the summer by United, they should be steamrolling teams like West Brom. But as is the case in most matches between sides in opposite halves of the table there seems to be an extra incentive for the side in the bottom half to prove a point. And today was no different.
It took 42 minutes for the first shot of the game to be recorded and it came from Anthony Martial after he dribbled a defender- but Myhill reacted sharply to punch his shot away. It was an attritional first half for United as West Brom gave nothing away.
Second half started in the same fashion as the first- with United dominating play and knocking on the door of the Baggies defense. It felt like it was going to be only a matter of time before the goal would come.
Jesse Lingard followed his assist from midweek with the opening goal after 52minutes after a cross from Martial was headed clear by Chris Brunt onto the path of Lingard who curled the ball into the bottom corner of the post giving the keeper no chance.
The goal gave United the upper hand as the West Brom resistance had finally been broken.
The Baggies were chasing the game and brought on strikers Lambert and Berahino to help their cause for the search of an equalizer. United also brought on Phil Jones for the struggling Ashley Young who had misplaced a few passes too many.
The Baggies had a chance to snatch an equalizer after Craig Dawson’s cross found Berahino unmarked but the striker placed the header sky high. The look of dismay from his manager said it all.
Marcos Rojo made way for 18year old Cameron Borthwick-Jackson who was making his Premier League debut. Herrera was also introduced for Rooney.
Jesse Lingard was eyeing a brace when he attempted to dribble his way past two West Brom defenders but was brought down. The referee waved play on but replays showed it was a clear penalty.
United would finally get their cushion of a second goal after a pass from Herrera sent Martial on full throttle only for the young French man to be hacked down illegally by McCauley who was given his marching orders by Mike Dean.
Juan Mata stepped up and scored the resulting penalty to give United all three points and a return to winning ways after two consecutive goalless draws.
Birthday boy David De Gea had a quiet afternoon overall as he would have wanted for a perfect birthday gift.
It was not a convincing performance from Van Gaal’s men but the three points is what will matter most. The win keeps United 4th and a point behind the joint leaders who have a game each in hand to play.