We were slightly apprehensive before Saturday’s game at home to West Brom as apart from the fact that United weren’t exactly lighting the world on fire with their football, West Brom had won on their last two visits to Old Trafford (Sir Alex Ferguson was last to beat them in December 2012).
The starting line-up seemed promising, and was unchanged from the win against CSKA Moscow, even if some fans still seemed disgruntled at seeing two holding midfielders play at home to a mid-table side.
It was excellent to see two former United players back at Old Trafford, although in West Brom shirts. Though Darren Fletcher and Johnny Evans hardly ever reached the required heights, they were good servants for the club, with over 350 appearances between them. It’s good to see a couple of lads brought up at United making the most of the chances given to them elsewhere.
Once the game started, it was clear to see that this game was going to be similar to recent games, where the opposition would just sit back and let United pass the ball around until either they give it away, or a half-chance is created. For all United’s possession in the first half, they only had one shot on target to show for it, after some sublime control by Martial, who then shot straight at the keeper.
The second half was more of the same, but it didn’t take long for United to find a breakthrough. That came from local boy Jesse Lingard, who after putting in a man of the match performance against CSKA Moscow, scored his first goal for the club’s first team with a clever, neatly-placed finish after fifty-two minutes. West Brom had to open up rather than defend for a 0-0 draw, and they could easily have equalised from a rare chance that Berahino seemed scared to head properly and thankfully didn’t hit the target with. After that, it was more United possession and with a couple of minutes to go, Martial pounced onto an excellent Herrera pass and ran into the box, where he was fouled by McAuley which resulted in a penalty for United and a red card for the West Brom player. Juan Mata duly stepped up to bury his kick from the spot and make sure of a decent 2-0 win for Van Gaal’s side. Worth noting that another club product, this time Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, made his first-team debut when he replaced Marcos Rojo with fifteen minutes to go. Here’s hoping that the eighteen year old has a bright future wearing Manchester United colours.
This victory turned out to be more than handy as all the other ‘big’ teams failed to win at the weekend. Manchester City could only manage a goalless draw at bottom of the league Aston Villa; Arsenal failed to win as they also drew 1-1 in the North London derby against Tottenham; Champions Chelsea lost their seventh game in the league, this time 1-0 at Stoke; Jurgen Klopp got his first taste of defeat in England when L’pool (ok, ok, not so much of a big club these days) lost 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace; Ranieri’s Leicester won 2-1 at home to Watford to stay third in the table, just one point behind the leaders; West Ham and Everton drew 1-1; Southampton won 1-0 at sorry Sunderland; Norwich beat Swansea with the same score line; and Newcastle won 1-0 at Bournemouth to overtake them in the table and get out of the relegation zone.
A few thoughts about the weekend games – Jurgen Klopp had his say about fans leaving early as he didn’t expect that at a club like L’pool, especially with the team being behind with ten minutes to go. While we agree with what he said, as anyone lucky enough to go and watch a live game should be there till the very end, can you imagine if it was Brendan Rodgers who had come out and said that? He’d have been jumped upon and told where to go, probably by the same people who leave early to ‘beat the traffic’.
Looking at Chelsea’s defeat at Stoke, they were actually praised for playing well and trying hard. They’re the current champions of England, what else are they supposed to do if not try their best in every game? Though it shows how these so called superstars haven’t been earning their wages this season if they’re being lauded for actually doing their job at Stoke. Oh look, Eden Hazard has had his best game for ages and it happened when Mourinho wasn’t there. I think that says more about a player than a manager.
In other news, FIFA have announced a shortlist of five people as candidates to become the association’s new president. We can’t wait for a few of them to start defending themselves when their dirty laundry is aired in public. Meanwhile, their current suspended president, Sepp Blatter, has been admitted to hospital with a stress-related illness. Here’s hoping that he hasn’t found a way to stay out of prison when he’s one day prosecuted and found guilty of his shenanigans. All this while questions are being asked of Germany and Franz Beckenbauer at how they ‘won’ the bid to host the 2016 World Cup.
In Spain, David Moyes has been sacked by Real Sociedad. Though we had hoped he’d do well in La Liga, it didn’t surprise anyone as he only won twelve games from the forty-two that he was in charge of. Kudos to him for actually going abroad and trying though as it can’t be easy for a fifty-two year old who had never lived or worked outside of the United Kingdom.
There’s no domestic football this weekend as it’s yet another international weekend. While they’ll be playing World Cup qualifiers in the Americas, Africa and Asia, it will be mostly ‘meaningless friendlies’ in Europe (apart from the EURO 2016 qualifying play-offs), so we will have our fingers crossed that all United players called up by their countries will come back to Manchester fit and healthy. Until then… COME ON UNITED!!!