The away day blues continued for the Reds, as United left The Hawthorns with a solitary point, with a late Daley Blind strike sparing United their blushes.
The game provided Adnan Januzaj an opportunity to show Louis van Gaal why he should be starting more games, and it also provided the team to finally claim a victory on the road, for the first time this season. Both opportunities were not seized, as Januzaj looked like a player short on confidence, and United a team that have struggled away from Old Trafford, with a less than convincing display.
It was Andre Wisdom’s run that led to Stephan Sessegnon placing a shot in the top corner, out of David de Gea’s reach, giving the Baggies a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.
United, with Robin van Persie leading the line up front, failed to worry the Albion defence too much, tame shots from van Persie and Angel di Maria were as much as they had troubled the home side. Juan Mata and Ander Herrera were also guilty of misplaced passes, and both losing out in midfield exchanges, with the latter being replaced at half time.
With Herrera being replaced by Marouane Fellaini, United at least had a better physical presence, something which van Gaal later alluded to in his post match interview – acknowledging the physicality of the Premier League. It was substitute Fellaini, who scored the equaliser with a well taken goal, using his upper body strength to first shake off Lescott, then control the ball and fire past Boaz Myhill.
United looked more threatening after the equaliser, but it was Albion who took the lead for the second time in the game, as Chris Brunt slid the ball to Saido Berahino, for the forward to coolly slot the ball past de Gea. It was the first time in the second half that Albion threatened, but United’s defence simply opened up allowing the speedy striker enough time to pick his spot.
The Albion defender Sebastien Pocognoli could easily have been penalised for handling the ball inside the penalty box, and van Persie hit the post with his shot, as United pressed for an equaliser.
Radamel Falcao had been sent on in place of Mata, and he at least provided added desire that was missing from United’s forward play, with just less than twenty minutes remaining.
With three minutes of normal time remaining, Lescott had blocked Rafael’s shot, which came out to Blind, whose neat left foot finish past Myhill finally ended United’s search for the equaliser.
A point a piece was probably about right in the end, but it still leaves van Gaal with much to ponder as to how best he is going to resolve United’s away form.
Next up is Chelsea at home on Sunday, and United will be hoping that at least their home form will give them better hope of getting something out of the game against the league leaders.
Does he drop van Persie ? Can he utilise Fellaini’s physical presence against a strong team like Chelsea ? There are also questions over the solidity of the defence, once again, will Blackett or McNair (if fit) return … all these questions and more will further test van Gaal and the coaching staff ahead of the Super Sunday game.
Written by Raman Paul.