West Bromwich Albion
Old Trafford, Manchester
September 28, 2013; 15:00 BST
Manchester United host West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford this Saturday with both sides struggling to hit top gear this season. United are coming off a drubbing handed out by neighbours Manchester City although they did manage to beat Liverpool in the midweek League Cup match, whereas West Brom come into this match having been eliminated in the League Cup by Arsenal despite dominating proceedings.
Manchester United have started slowly under the stewardship of David Moyes and they do not have the aura of champions, yet. They have failed to win against any of their fellow title contenders and have just collected a point in the process. Their two victories this season have come courtesy of their supreme forward unit rather than any fluid attacking moves. Moyes would demand improvement against the Midlands club this weekend.
West Brom come into this game after dispatching Sunderland quite comfortably but they know that a visit to Old Trafford will be a completely different proposition. This game also starts a sequence of four games for Steve Clarke’s men that sees them play United away, Arsenal at home, Stoke City away and Liverpool away. As things stand West Brom would need to play out of their skins to grab anything from their upcoming fixtures.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Robin Van Persie is a doubtful starter for this game with Moyes looking to keep his star striker under wraps for bigger tests ahead. Tom Cleverley is the only further addition to the medical table with the midfielder picking up an injury in training ahead of the midweek match against Liverpool.
It will be interesting to see if Moyes picks the same backline that was routinely exposed by City at the Etihad last weekend or goes for youth by sticking with the defence from midweek. Whatever Moyes does he will have to devise a plan for stopping so many crosses coming in from the wide areas, especially from the right flank. Both Patrice Evra and Alexander Buttner have looked far more impressive charging forward than helping out defensively and Moyes would have to ask his left winger to provide some much needed cover.
Moyes would also like to use this game to help Maroune Fellaini forget his inefficiencies against City on Sunday and start afresh as a United player. The former Everton man looked all at sea against the power and movement of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho and would welcome the chance of playing against a lesser midfield. Moyes would also be contemplating whether to hand Nani a first league start this season as the Portuguese looked lively against Liverpool and would offer something different as compared to Ashley Young. The use of Shinji Kagawa has been another talking point ahead of this match. If Van Persie does not feature here it would make sense to play the Japanese in his preferred No. 10 role behind Rooney.
United would want to kill this game off early and rest some of their big names ahead of a tricky away tie against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday. What they would not want is a repeat of the famous 5-5 scoreline the last time these sides met at the Hawthorns. That was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last match in charge and United let slip leads of 3-0 and 5-2.
Moyes would want his side to play at a high tempo and seek out Wayne Rooney whenever possible. Rooney has been the starring light of United’s indifferent start to the season and the onus will be on him to deliver another match winning performance.
Probable Starting XI [4-2-3-1]: De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Fellaini; Valencia, Kagawa, Nani; Rooney
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom made a whole host of changes for the League Cup tie against Arsenal and would welcome back a lot of first team players for the trip to Old Trafford. A good news for Clarke is that Steven Reid got through the whole match against the Gunners and is in line for starting this game. Matej Vydra who took the Championship by storm last season could also be available following a hamstring injury. Zoltan Gera (knee) and Chris Brunt (groin) are definite non starters for this one.
Clarke would also be hoping that the performance against Sunderland, where the Baggies won 3-0, is a sign that his side can return to performing at the levels of last season where they finished an impressive eighth. But something which gets overlooked amidst the fine run that West Brom enjoyed last year is that they have been on a downward spiral since March. They have won only 2 out of their last 15 matches and that is potential relegation form, especially if one looks at their immediate fixture list. They have also been goal shy this season and prior to Saturday had scored only one goal.
West Brom will again rely heavily on Stephane Sessegnon, who scored on his debut for the Baggies against Sunderland, and on Morgan Amalfitano who has looked very lively this season. Amalfitano is the latest Frenchman to make his mark in the Premier League and is one who likes to drop deep and create chances for his team mates, as he proved when laying off an assist for Liam Ridgewell against The Black Cats.
Clarke will hope that his solid defence, which has conceded only 4 goals this season, can weather the inevitable early pressure from United. If the Baggies can get to the break level then they would fancy their chances of getting something from this game by exposing United’s fragile looking backline on the counter attack.
Probable Starting XI [4-2-3-1]: Myhill; Jones, Ridgewell, McAuley, Olsson; Yacob, Mulumbu; Amalfitano, Sessegnon, Sinclair; Anelka
- United have conceded 11 goals in their last six Premier League games, one more than they had in their previous 18 games.
- United have scored 37 goals in 14 Premier League games against the Baggies.
- United last lost to West Brom at Old Trafford in 1978.
- Six of Man United’s 13 Premier League titles have seen them win only two of their opening five games.
- Stephane Sessegnon’s goal last weekend was only the third time in Premier League history that a player had scored a debut goal which also happened to be against his previous club.
- Three of West Brom’s four goals this season have come in the closing 15 minutes of Premier League games.
Player to Watch out for
Morgan Amalfitano (West Bromwich Albion)
While the purchases of Stephane Sessegnon and Victor Anichebe grabbed all the attention of the Baggies fans, Steve Clarke’s most astute piece of business could be getting Amalfitano on a season long loan from Marseille. The French international who regularly featured for Marseille in the Champions League can play all across the middle of the park and has all the tools to hurt United. He is also 29 years old and will not be fazed by the atmosphere at some of the more hostile grounds that West Brom will travel to this season.
Manchester United 3-1 West Bromwich Albion
United would still be hurting from the pasting they got against City and Moyes will expect his team to play well and win convincingly on Saturday. Having said that United’s defence has looked a little ragged this season and West Brom could get an unlikely goal at Old Trafford this time around.
Blast from the Past
Sir Alex Ferguson was denied victory in his last match in charge of Manchester United when they were held 5-5 by West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns in May this year. United raced into a 3-0 lead before the Baggies pulled it back to 3-2. United scored a further two goals to almost clinch the win but Lukaku’s late double and a Mulumbu goal made sure that Sir Alex did not enjoy a fond farewell.