Preview: United v West Bromwich Albion



Manchester United’s performances this Christmas may be patchy, but the same cannot be said for manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The great Scot started the week fearing for Robin van Persie’s life and ended it by deriding Newcastle United as that “wee club from the north east”. It has been truly spectacular stuff from a deliciously feisty Ferguson.

But while Sir Alex returned to limelight-hogging form, the manager should be more concerned with United’s propensity to ship soft goals as in-form West Bromwich Albion visit Old Trafford on Saturday. Indeed, with West Brom up to fifth place in the Premier League table, and United likely to rotate for the third game in a week, the fixture has significant ‘banana skin’ potential.

Still, while United shipped four preventable goals in the past week it cost the Reds just the two dropped points at Swansea City last weekend, leaving Ferguson’s side seven clear of rivals Manchester City – a lead so healthy that complacency is now a genuine threat.

Good, then, that Ferguson can call on more resources than against Newcastle United on Wednesday night, with Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa all likely to be involved at some point according the the 70-year-old manager.

“We’re hoping maybe Young will be ready and Daniel Welbeck should be ready,” confirmed Ferguson, who turns 71 on New Year’s Eve.

“He was ill on Tuesday night but I think he should be okay. At least that’s a couple of bodies back fresh for us. We’ll just assess the rest in terms of tiredness. We need to assess players like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs as I think, at their age, [the match versus Newcastle] took a lot out of them.

“Rooney is out for at least another two games. He was a bit better yesterday. We’re going to assess Phil Jones but I don’t think he’ll be ready. Shinji wanted to do a warm-up and training on the pitch and he is getting close. I could maybe put him on the bench tomorrow depending on who is available.”

Ferguson may opt to rest van Persie, with the manager previously insisting that none of his players would feature in all four games over the festive period. Antonio Valencia is long over due a break, while Tom Cleverley should return to the starting line-up. Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa could be in line for a surprise start.

Meanwhile, with Jones not certain to be fit, Ferguson may again call on Chris Smalling at right-back, while Rio Ferdinand could drop to the bench for captain Nemanja Vidić.

Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion, Premier League, Old Trafford, 29 December 2012That balance has proven to be a challenge for United this season, with the back-four and midfield dynamic causing the Reds plenty of defensive problems. United has shipped 28 Premier League goals this season, which is just five fewer than bottom club Queens Park Rangers. United conceded fewer during title-winning Premier League campaigns in 2007, 2008 and 2009, while Ferguson’s side has managed just four clean sheets all season.

“When you are conceding goals at any level you want to put it to a stop,” admits defender Ferdinand. “This season we have let in far too many goals and we need to change that. We need to make a big effort now to push on. We are in a good position but if we are to maintain where we are, we need to sort ourselves out.”

Ferdinand’s are fine words, of course, but a sentiment that has been echoed season long. And while West Brom have scored just 12 goals away from the Hawthornes this season, few will bet on a United shut-out by 5pm on Saturday. With van Persie potentially on the bench Welbeck and Javier Hernández will need to add to one and 10 goals, respectively, this season.

Meanwhile, Steve Clarke is without injured defenders Jonas Olsson and Goran Popov, and midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu, although George Thorne has returned from a loan spell at Peterborough to ease a heavy injury burden.

The visitors’ injuries and history suggest a home win, with United having never lost to West Brom in the Premier League era. Indeed, the Baggies’ last victory at Old Trafford was a 5-3 triumph almost 35 years ago.

Still, with the Midlanders riding high, there is plenty of confidence in Clarke’s squad ahead of the trip north, not least from former Red, Ben Foster.

“I’ve lost every time I’ve been back there and I got ‘pumped’ 5-0 with Birmingham then we lost 2-0 there last year,” said Foster.

“It’s special to play at Old Trafford, but with the way our team is I don’t think anybody gets too excited about games like that. There are a lot of teams who go there like rabbits in the headlights and get starstruck by it all but I don’t think we’re that sort of team. We will go there, business as usual, looking to get some points.”

Moreover, West Brom’s tally of 33 points is the highest the club has achieved at this stage of a Premier League campaign.

But with the carrot of a huge lead heading into the New Year, Ferguson’s team should gain focus for the weekend’s clash. Whether Ferguson’s back-four can keep a clean sheet is another matter – a good question for the manager’s next press conference, perhaps.

Match Details
Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion – Premier League, Old Trafford – Saturday 29 December 2012, 3pm

Possible teams
United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Smalling, Evans, Vidić, Büttner;  Carrick, Cleverley; Young, Kagawa, Welbeck; Hernández. Subs from: Lindegaard, Wootton,  Ferdinand, Evra, Scholes, Valencia, Powell, Giggs, van Persie, Macheda

West Brom (4-5-1): Foster; Tamas, Ridgewell, McAuley, Jones; Morrison, Brunt, Gera, Dorrans, Fortuné; Lukaku. Subs from: Myhill, Rosenberg, Long, Odemwingie, El Ghanassy, Jara, Reid

Officials
Referee: Jon Moss
Assistants: A Garratt, C Breakspear
Fourth official: P Dowd

Form
United: WLWWDW
West Brom: LLLDWW

Head to Head
Last 10: United 8, West Brom 0, Draw 2
Overall: United 51, West Brom 40, Draw 29

Stats

  • van Persie’s goal against Newcastle was his 13th of the Premier League season, having come from 63 efforts at goal with 53.7 per cent on target, and an average of 4.84 shots per goal;
  • van Persie’s effort at the other end of the pitch is also important – the Dutchman has made 20 clearances so far this season, more than any other striker in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index;
  • With three goals from just five shots at goal Jonny Evans leads the Index for goals to shots ratio;
  • While Wayne Rooney may not have scored in United’s recent game against Swansea, his seven shots on target is the joint highest by a player in a single game this season;
  • West Brom have enjoyed back to back 2-1 victories over the Christmas fixtures so far, with Chris Brunt, Zoltan Gera and Romelu Lukaku on target;
  • Lukaku has scored six in the Premier League this season, getting 81.25 per cent of his 32 efforts at goal on target at an average of 5.33 shots per goal;
  • Gera has scored four this season, coming from just 16 chances, and has also completed 233 passes in the opposition half – more than any other West Brom player;
  • Chris Brunt scored his first of the season against QPR, although has five assists to his name – has also delivered more crosses than any other West Brom player with 28.

Prediction
2-1

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Comments

  1. So when you’re headline screams “United”

    You didn’t actually mean us after all, then – you meant
    the Mancs – with the dozy manager?

    OK

    • Denys Koval says:

      Well, you’ve got to admit, “A wee club in the north east United” doesn’t scream that much. Should have seen that one coming, mate.

    • It’s “your” and this is obviously a MANCHESTER United site. Now piss off back to your wee club in the north east :)

  2. brianofnazareth brianofnazareth says:

    17-0

    Welbeck to score 16, an a Giggs bicycle kick!

  3. This is gonna be another traumatic 3-2 with a bodged 11

    And Fergie will dominate proceedings in an attempt to mask all of the horrific failings

  4. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    I’ve a feeling this will be a proper ass kicking… 5-1/6-2…

  5. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    i bet lindengrad plays

  6. How many other teams in the PL play with Scholes, Giggs and Carrick or players of their ages in their starting line-up? So how can’t people see how this lack of energy contributes to the vulnerability of our defence? Against City and Swansea when we had younger legs we looked very secure with City being very flattered by the two goals they scored.

    Today am confident that Scholes will not start – hopefully never again – so we should be a bit more secure. West Brom don’t have the technically good players Newcastle brought so we should be fine.

    Alan Pardew is an idiot.

  7. Commenter said:
    So when you’re headline screams “United”

    You didn’t actually mean us after all, then – you meant
    the Mancs – with the dozy manager?

    OK

    So the club crest at the top of the page and the article weren’t a slight giveaway – and then you say our manager is dozy?

    You thick cunt.

  8. go easy sheesh
    i doubt he can find his way back to read the follow up comments

  9. hmmmmmmmm
    pitch inspection at 1.20
    ffs with all that money and technology, OT should really have a better pitch

  10. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Game is on Bloodzeed… best stream on the net… get it up and running early.

  11. Violent Banana says:

    De Gea, Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Young, Kagawa & Welbeck.

    Bench: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Giggs, Hernandez, Van Persie, Scholes, Büttner.

    Kagawa in his natural position. DDG confirmed number 1 now?

  12. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    aimless crosses from the wing for welbeck and kagawa to get on the end of should be fun to watch

  13. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    all the shite about rooney deserving to be dropped,

    yet when does valencia ever not play

  14. Valencia should have been dropped too

    Big test for Welbeck up on his own. Need some x factor from him

  15. Violent Banana says:

    Valencia was better in the last 20 minutes; and we don’t exactly have a plethora of choices in wide positions atm…

  16. a clean sheet would be welcome

  17. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    “It’s been open season to link us with a stack of players, admittedly some very good ones, but it just isn’t going to happen. You can never say never in football because you don’t know who might become available, but speaking generally, I am not looking to do any serious business in January.I don’t have to because I am more than satisfied with the players I have in my squad, a group as good as I have had in my time at Old Trafford.”

  18. Violent Banana says:

    Safe to assume City have won

  19. Violent Banana says:

    Beautiful own goal that

  20. about time OG made an appearance this season

  21. Foster is a prick

  22. We’re actually in control of a game

    Clev and Kagawa are keeping the ball well

  23. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    berbatov losing again

    they could actually go down

  24. uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    berbatov losing again

    they could actually go down

    you should post that in the correct thread

  25. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    fulham were a solid midtable side before they signed our expensive bollockless lazy flop, now they may go down

  26. uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    fulham were a solid midtable side before they signed our expensive bollockless lazy flop, now they may go down

    yawn
    zz
    zzzzz
    zzz
    zzzzz

  27. Violent Banana says:

    Think they’ve struggled with injuries this season, they’ll be alright. Can’t see them finishing below Villa, QPR and Reading.

  28. We look good in possessionand going forward, though the lack of an established clinical fiisher on the pitch is worrisome. We had 3-4 good chances and have only 1 OG to show for it

    West Brom really havent shown anything worrying except for free kicks…

    At 1-0 anything can happen though….so need to score more

    Wellbeck not yet accustomed to leading the line….Hernandez in last 15 minutes?

  29. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Commenter said:
    Think they’ve struggled with injuries this season, they’ll be alright. Can’t see them finishing below Villa, QPR and Reading.

    Knobby just likes winding up Han… and Han bites every time.

  30. Nasri sent off btw…City will be with 10 men for entire 2nd half

  31. Violent Banana says:

    Aguero 3-1

  32. time for the pea

  33. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Why risk Van Persie on this shitty pitch?

  34. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    we dont batter teams unless we’re behind

  35. Are we Bolton in disguise? What’s the point of bringing RvP on, when there’s no way to get the ball to him? This is painful to watch.

  36. Valencia lost the ball from a throw-in ffs

  37. Violent Banana says:

    Carrick and Cleverley have put in some shifts in the last few weeks, beginning to show here

  38. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Scholes on… lol… where’s Cal?

    Fuckin hell… is this what you call faffage Knobby???

  39. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Scholes on… lol… where’s Cal?
    Fuckin hell… is this what you call faffage Knobby???

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  40. What.A.Goal

  41. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    And that’s why he gets the big bucks, boys and girls…

  42. Violent Banana says:

    Why bring him on indeed.

  43. Fuckin Wellbeck had tons of chances…have shit to show for it

    RVP had 2 shots and have 1 goal

    Not reflecting too negatively on Wellbeck, he might very well turn out good. but that just shows what difference true class brings….

  44. Violent Banana says:

    Clean sheet with Vidic on the pitch. Coincidence?

  45. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Good performance from the defense…

    Good result.

  46. Defense looked absolutely solid today. Evans was suspect in some of his tackling but was immense in the blocking department

    Also big plus for me is Kagawa. He didnt look at all out of place despite long layoff…faded in the end but thats just match fitness. Wellbeck held up well but overall so-so performance from him I thought.

    Carrick is overdue a rest no? Looked great with Clev

    Good game. Shouldve killed it off earlier but good performance nonetheless

  47. We lost control of possession when Kagawa went off, then West Brom came back into it

    But before then we actually controlled the game, against a good team n all

  48. Van Persie’s tribute was apparently to the Indian girl who was raped, beaten and killed the other week

  49. Class all round from RVP. Makes this United side worth watching in the midst of so much mediocrity. He’ll win us the PL with his goals, won’t be enough in Europe though, other sides have too much quality on the ball all over the pitch and he is but one man.

    OH ROBIN VAN PERSIE!!!

  50. Denton Davey says:

    Sidney @ 3:28: “Big test for Welbeck up on his own.”

    He did great in terms of harrassing the central defenders, unsettling their keeper (the man formerly known as FumblesFoster), and holding up the ball. He’s still not a dangerous finisher but in terms of doing the job assigned to him, DannyTheLad was terrific.

    The other guy who really stood out was CaptainVidic – what a rock. Playing him gives Jonny Evans less to do, too, since he doesn’t need to be his partner’s minder.

    And what about AshleyBloodyYoung ? He provided an assist for OG and then missed yet-another point-blank shot. He’s just NOT UTD-quality.

    • Mongoletsi says:

      Right, I always read from the bottom up. Now I’ve come across this shite. I officially declare you a dickhead. Happy Xmas.

    • 19 and counting says:

      Yes Welbeck holds the ball well but he can’t put the ball in the back of the net. He’ll be on the bench more often than not. I agree that AY is not United quality and hope we see more of Kagawa. I hope Nani can come back strong as well and show he’s still a big part of this United team. Oh and Vidic and Evans were amazing today. Please stay fit Nemanja…

  51. Denton Davey says:

    Sidney @ 6:05: “We lost control of possession when Kagawa went off”

    I think that we lost control of the game’s dynamic at half-time; most of the second half was on the back-foot.

    BUT, yeah, KagawaBunga showed the kind of calm, close-control, and eye for spreading the play that he was purchased to provide. I’d just love to see him at the base of a “diamond” with Chicharito at the tip and TheWayneBoy/RVP interchanging between the lines.

  52. Commenter said:
    I think that we lost control of the game’s dynamic at half-time; most of the second half was on the back-foot.

    I agree. United came out for the second half and played almost the entire 45 minutes as though they were hanging on to a one goal lead in stoppage time. They were unable or unwilling to try to move the ball out of their half on the ground, preferring instead to lump it forward like Bolton or to pass it back to de Gea for a long kick that almost always resulted in an immediate loss of possession. Thank goodness for RvP’s ability to make something out of nothing.

  53. madredmonkey madredmonkey says:

    Good result on a bad pitch, Rvp world class goal.

  54. sidney said:
    Van Persie’s tribute was apparently to the Indian girl who was raped, beaten and killed the other week

    As far as I’m aware, her name was withheld.

    I couldn’t believe how poor we were in the second half compared to the first. We were barely hanging on until Van Persie scored the second. Our ball retention was pretty poor.

  55. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Our second half performance was typical of Ferguson, when he decides the defense needs sorting out.

    In the past whenever our defense shows consistant flaws, he takes a game or two, and concentrates on keeping clean sheets… it’s often not pretty, but it usually puts the defensive problems right.

    The win was good, the performance wasn’t great, but the clean sheet was worth it, IMO.

  56. Commenter said:
    “KagawaBunga”… “TheWayneBoy”…

    Hi mate, please go fuck yourself, and never come back here again.

    Lol harsh

  57. brianofnazareth brianofnazareth says:

    sidney said: Lol harsh

    Harsh but fair I feel!

  58. Denton Davey says:

    Mongoletsi @ 3:37: “Hi mate, please go fuck yourself”

    Cheers, M8. Tried it once, didn’t like it !

    If you don’t like what I write, I give you absolute licence to ignore it.

  59. uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    fulham were a solid midtable side before they signed our expensive bollockless lazy flop, now they may go down

    I like you knobby!! That gave me a good laugh.

  60. Another dire performance to add to the list of terrible displays at old trafford in last 3 seasons. Clean sheet and win yes, but despite the fact the pitch was poor West Brom (whose team probably cost less than a tenth of what ours does) were still able to play decent passing football. The only reason we didnt concede is because we parked the bus from the beginning of the second half.
    I never thought I would see the day when Manchester united would go 5 at the back sitting on a one goal lead for the last 25 minutes against the mighty west brom at Old Trafford. We had three centre backs with valencia playing right back and taking throw ins.
    The quality and style of football on display by us was absolutely shocking and has been really poor for 3 seasons already in my opinion. I think De dea must have the highest number of back passes received in the league. Most of our possession nowadays is CB to CB to FB then back to CB across to other FB pass to Winger back to FB or CB then most of the time back to de dea for a hoof which 9 times out of 10 results in us giving away the ball. This happens on a regular basis, just watch how many times in the next game de gea gets a back pass.
    Our attacking play consists of 1) long glory balls with about 10 % completion rate from CB’s which ferdinand in particular loves 2) pass it to valencia (because nothing will come from the left wing as has been happening for last 3 season) get in box and wait for any scraps and 3) pass to van persie and hope he does what he does best.
    I know we top scorers in the prem but thats more a reflection on the shocking standard of defending rather than our great attacking. Just look how we struggle to score against half decent teams in Europe.
    Oh and Fergies post match comments make me sick most of the time nowadays. I would feel much better if he was angry about the amateur passing and ball control that was on display instead of seeing him gleaming about the performance and blaming the pitch.
    Welbeck is fuckin useless and If only other youngsters were given the time and patience afforded to him. His first touch, ball control, tactical awareness, and decision making are all well below United standard (as is the case with quite a few others in our team).

  61. We look far better defensively with Vidic in the side rather than Rio.

  62. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    I agree with some of what you say… “Fergies post match comments make me sick most of the time nowadays. I would feel much better if he was angry about the amateur passing and ball control that was on display instead of seeing him gleaming about the performance and blaming the pitch.”… and the generally pissed off feeling of watching United not play the quality of football worthy of their position as a world elite team.

    But some of the other stuff you wrote is missing the point… the 5 at the back on Saturday, was Fergie fighting for a clean sheet, not just conceding he needed to defend the lead… I’ve no doubt we could have scored more, had Ferguson wanted more, but I think he decided it was important for team moral, and defensive confidence to keep the clean sheet… over the years, United has allways been relatively mean at the back, and whenever we’ve shown a defensive frailty, Ferguson has dedicated a game or two, to get our defensive house in order… the football wasn’t the best, but personally, I enjoyed the clean sheet.

  63. Commenter said:
    Another dire performance to add to the list of terrible displays at old trafford in last 3 seasons. Clean sheet and win yes, but despite the fact the pitch was poor West Brom (whose team probably cost less than a tenth of what ours does) were still able to play decent passing football. The only reason we didnt concede is because we parked the bus from the beginning of the second half.
    I never thought I would see the day when Manchester united would go 5 at the back sitting on a one goal lead for the last 25 minutes against the mighty west brom at Old Trafford. We had three centre backs with valencia playing right back and taking throw ins.
    The quality and style of football on display by us was absolutely shocking and has been really poor for 3 seasons already in my opinion. I think De dea must have the highest number of back passes received in the league. Most of our possession nowadays is CB to CB to FB then back to CB across to other FB pass to Winger back to FB or CB then most of the time back to de dea for a hoof which 9 times out of 10 results in us giving away the ball. This happens on a regular basis, just watch how many times in the next game de gea gets a back pass.
    Our attacking play consists of 1) long glory balls with about 10 % completion rate from CB’s which ferdinand in particular loves 2) pass it to valencia (because nothing will come from the left wing as has been happening for last 3 season) get in box and wait for any scraps and 3) pass to van persie and hope he does what he does best.
    I know we top scorers in the prem but thats more a reflection on the shocking standard of defending rather than our great attacking. Just look how we struggle to score against half decent teams in Europe.
    Oh and Fergies post match comments make me sick most of the time nowadays. I would feel much better if he was angry about the amateur passing and ball control that was on display instead of seeing him gleaming about the performance and blaming the pitch.
    Welbeck is fuckin useless and If only other youngsters were given the time and patience afforded to him. His first touch, ball control, tactical awareness, and decision making are all well below United standard (as is the case with quite a few others in our team).

    what side of knobhead’s bed did you wake up from? that was a fairly changed team out there on saturday and wba are not the mugs from 2 seasons ago (who i recall took a point from OT after being 2-0 down as well). Granted, it wasn’t great football for the 90 minutes but we can all moan that we didn’t score 5 goals every match – i just can’t understand the way SAF sets the team out either most matches but if he actually got some help from that so called assistant of his, then maybe the team sheet will change

  64. Commenter said:
    Another dire performance to add to the list of terrible displays at old trafford in last 3 seasons. Clean sheet and win yes, but…

    Welbeck is fuckin useless and If only other youngsters were given the time and patience afforded to him. His first touch, ball control, tactical awareness, and decision making are all well below United standard (as is the case with quite a few others in our team).

    I agree with much of what you wrote, but, as long as United are in the mood to imitate Bolton, Wellbeck is the only player that keeps the percentage of lost possession on long punts from defenders and de Gea under 100%. I don’t believe that there is a Premiership side that is worse at knocking down and collecting the knock-downs from high balls than United, who also suck pretty badly at retaining possession from throw-ins. It makes me wonder just what the team does in training; they certainly don’t seem to spend much time on the fundamentals.

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