A 63rd minute goal by Jonas Olsson past the stranded David De Gea, from a Chris Brunt free kick condemned Manchester United to their third straight defeat, where United have also failed to score.
The match also saw Robin van Persie in the first team starting line up following his recent injury troubles, and the Dutchman looked relatively sharp early on.
The first half didn’t herald many chances for either side, with Ander Herrera shooting high and wide on the stroke of half time for United, as the sides went in at 0-0.
Louis van Gaal decided to change the formation, playing Marouanne Fellaini as a target man, whilst deploying van Persie deeper in midfield alongside Wayne Rooney.
It was the visitors who stunned Old Trafford, as Chris Brunt’s free kick was diverted away from De Gea’s path by Olsson to give the Baggies an undeserved lead. Former Red Darren Fletcher had won the free kick as Paddy McNair committed the foul from which Albion scored.
Immediately after Albion’s goal, van Gaal decided to substitute Daley Blind replacing him with Angel Di Maria, presenting him with another opportunity to show the Old Trafford faithful why such a large sum of money was forked out for him. Time and again, Di Maria was poor with his delivery from crosses, even when he had no pressure from the opposition.
Despite large spells of possession (80%-20%) in United’s favour, clear cut chances were few and far between. However, eighteen minutes from time Saido Berahino was adjudged to have handled Antonio Valencia’s cross, presenting the home side a chance to level from the spot. The returning van Persie saw his spot kick saved by Boaz Myhill, denting United’s hopes of an equaliser.
Falcao replaced McNair with seven minutes of normal time remaining, but he too was unable to rescue United, as Albion saw out the game with a disciplined and organised side that was hard to break down.
Some United fans must be scratching their heads as to why a midfielder was deployed as a lone target man in the second half, and the clubs best two strikers much further behind him. Surely, if Fellaini was to be used as a target man and hold the ball up, allowing others to foray forward and support him, Rooney or in particular van Persie should have been making up ground in order to make the system work effectively, something van Gaal will probably need to look at with his coaching staff.
United need to get back on track, and pick up points at the business end of the end of the season, starting with a tricky away game versus Crystal Palace next week, otherwise the race for the Champions League spots (fourth place more realistic now than second or third) will send United fans into squeaky bum time.