United and West Brom at Drawthorns
Manchester United travelled to the Hawthorns on Monday night to take on West Bromwich Albion in a push to climb back into the top four. However, the home side had other ideas and a draw was all they could salvage as Louis van Gaal continues to search for stability in his starting eleven.
Right from kickoff West Brom took the game to the 20-time league champions and it looked as though United’s soldiers had left their weapons at home. Eight minutes in and Benin international, Stephane Sessegnon buried a superb effort past a flapping David De Gea to leave the travelling fans stunned.
United then reverted back to their negative long-ball tactic, presumably in the hope that it would push the home side back. Instead, with Januzaj and Di Maria pulling wide in an attempt to draw the gaps, West Brom were able to walk straight through the middle and the Red Devils never got going.
At half time Ander Herrera, who didn’t have his best night possibly down to the fact that he was wearing a corset to protect a rib injury, was substituted for under pressure Marouane Fellaini. Three minutes later the wigged-wizard stepped up and thumped home a belter to draw his side level.
It looked as though this was the turning point and that United would get back to old ways but that lasted only a matter of minutes before they were pushed back once again and picked up their scrappy performance from where they had left off in the first 45.
Shortly after the hour mark it was the rising talent of Saido Berahino, whose movement on and off the ball troubled the defence throughout, ran in behind to slot home for his seventh goal in ten appearances this season.
United persisted with the long ball but it was more of a ‘hit and hope’ situation as opposed to players putting weighted, measured crosses into the box. Angel Di Maria wasn’t at his best, failing to complete a number of passes in the final third and was far too selfish in possession.
With time running out Manchester United must have thought a loss was inevitable after Robin van Persie’s only real contribution of the night rattled the woodwork before being thumped clear. Then Daley Blind got fans on their feet, curling a beautiful shot from range into the corner of Boaz Myhill’s net. The teams were all square once more.
A hard-earned 2-2 was a fair result as neither team played poorly enough to not deserve at least a point but there will be fears for United going into the Chelsea fixture next weekend with the defence not having improved at all throughout the season.
Marcus Rojo’s poor form continued as the defender was brushed aside all too easily in set pieces and failed to get back when West Brom hit United on the counter. The Argentine over-ran the ball to allow Sessegnon in for the first goal and then completely lost Berahino which lead to the second.
“I’m very disappointed because we played our best match of the season,” van Gaal stated in a post match interview with Sky Sports. When the manager watches the footage back, however, he’ll notice the defence was at shambles, the midfield commanded absolutely no authority, and the frontline never looked like scoring. In honesty, it was an average performance that never got a pattern going and West Brom took advantage of this.