24 min: Herrera, who’s come in for criticism lately, clips McClean in the middle. West Brom take the free-kick quickly, moving it out to Gibbs on the left. His cross is deflected and De Gea can’t stop it going out for a corner.
21 min: There’s no way that Anthony Martial would be of any use here.
18 min: Rondon miscontrols a pass, spooning it out for a throw. The entertainment levels are low at the moment.
14 min: Young whips a cross to the far post, looking for Lukaku, but Gibbs does superbly to stay with the Belgian, despite the height disadvantage, and get his head to the ball. It loops up into the air, tempting Lukaku to challenge Foster, but he fouls the West Brom goalkeeper.
12 min: This is much better from the hosts now. They looked nervous in the first 10 minutes, but they’re beginning to play their part in this, winning their first corner on the left. Krychowiak’s delivery is awful, though.
11 min: West Brom embark on another sortie, Rondon muscling through the middle, but the forward’s pass to Livermore is overhit and forces the midfielder too wide on the right. He’s crowded out.
9 min: West Brom break for the first time, Rondon opening United up down the left with a smart backheel to McClean, who surges away. The winger hasn’t got much support, though, and his firm centre is too hard for Burke to control.
7 min: England’s Jake Livermore dithers on the edge of his own area and attempts to dribble out of trouble, only for Lingard to pick his pocket and win a corner.
6 min: United are in complete control. A poor clearance goes straight to Young, who looks like he’s going to cross. But no. Instead he disguises a perceptive pass through to Mata, whose low centre has to be hacked away. West Brom are struggling to get out of their half.
5 min: A long ball finds Rashford on the left. He cuts inside, breaking into the area again, but his shot’s blocked.
4 min: “I only saw Burke play a few times for Forest and have been looking forward to him getting a start,” says JR in Illinois. “He looked big and really fast with some tricks as well and that was two years ago when he was 18. He certainly seems capable of scaring United on the wing. Not in the same way McClean scares people, mind. Come on you Baggies. Oh man do I hope they stuff Mourinho.”
2 min: United have settled quickly, taking control of possession and pushing West Brom back. Lukaku and Rashford indulge in a spot of head tennis on the edge of the area, the latter almost bursting through on goal before Evans hooks clear.
Peep! West Brom, kicking from right to left in the first half, get the game underway. The Manchester United fans are making a lot of noise.
Here come the teams! West Brom are in their blue and white stripes, Manchester United are in red shirts and black shorts.
Alan Pardew says that Oliver Burke’s orders are to scare Manchester United – and he won’t last long if he doesn’t. “He reminds me a bit of Zaha.” I’ve never seen Burke play. What do we think of him?
“Herrera needs a performance today,” says Christopher Faherty. “He’s been terrible in the bigger games this season, and whenever he’s been subbed on to close out a match he’s not done anything towards that, he doesn’t seem to get around the pitch as easily this season and his passing is very humdrum now. If McTominay keeps going the way he’s going he’ll have his lunch quick enough.”
Jose Mourinho speaks! He’s asked about his team selection. “We think a match at a time. I am not rotating, I am not protecting players for what is coming, I am just trying to play the team that we think is the best team for this match.
And what of West Brom? “The biggest danger is the fact that they need points because they are in a difficult position and they need points. The stadium is always difficult because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Then the qualities and experience of the players, they are very experienced and physical, capable to defend well with a lot of bodies, but at the same time to be dangerous with direct football with people like Rondon and McClean.”
And what about being 14 points behind Manchester City? He’s asked whether United have to do their job in isolation. “You told the question and the answer.”
Alan Pardew has mostly kept faith with the players who held Liverpool at Anfield. Only one change for West Brom, Oliver Burke replacing Hal Robson-Kanu.
Manchester United make three changes to the side that beat Bournemouth 1-0. Ashley Young replaces Luke Shaw at left-back, Scott McTominay makes way for Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford comes in for Anthony Martial. Paul Pogba is still suspended.
West Brom: Foster; Nyom, Hegazi, Evans, Gibbs; Yacob, Livermore, Krychowiak; Burke, Rondon, McClean. Subs: Myhill, McAuley, Brunt, Barry, Field, Robson-Kanu, Rodriguez.
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Young; Herrera, Matic; Mata, Lingard, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw, McTominay, Martial, Ibrahimovic.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
On this day in 2016, West Bromwich Albion hosted Manchester United at the Hawthorns. The Baggies were in terrific form. Salomón Rondón had scored a fine hat-trick in a win over Swansea City three days earlier and all the talk was about whether Tony Pulis’s side might be capable of challenging for a European spot. Only four points separated them and United at the start of play, after all, and West Brom were still feeling optimistic even after being put to the sword by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s smart double. The Pulis Pragmaticos were sitting pretty in seventh place, seven points off a European spot and nine above the bottom three, and they were almost becoming the very definition of Premier League stability.
But what a difference a year makes, even though 2017 did start quite well for West Brom. They went out of the FA Cup early, because Pulis, but all was well when they closed February with a win over Bournemouth that took them to … 40 points. Dun-Dun-Duuuuuuuun!!!!!!!! At which point: commence the slide. Barely anything has gone right since then. They ended last season with one win from their last 12 games – a 3-1 victory over Arsenal in March – to finish 10th, miles off the European places, and despite some promising summer signings, Pulis proved incapable of exterminating the malaise. It simply got worse (more boring) and the safest pair of hands in England had turned into a butterfingered mess by the time West Brom decided that their club shop could stand the drop in profits that would come from sacking Pulis. Something had to be done. A hero was required, a breath of fresh air, a silver-haired smoothball with a proud track record of making everything slightly more exciting for a short while. There was only one man.
And who could else it be but Alan Pardew? No one else, that’s who! But the famous Pardew bounce hasn’t quite materialised yet. West Brom are still waiting for their first goal under their new manager, who has picked up two points from his first three games, and they find themselves in trouble before hosting United this afternoon. Yesterday’s results largely conspired against them, leaving Pardew’s strugglers in 19th place and two points off the promised land of 17th, and it probably won’t have cheered them up to see their grumpy old loanee, Romelu Lukaku, end his goalscoring drought against Bournemouth on Wednesday night. They could do without see another non-celebration from Lukaku here.
United, however, are also desperate for a win. They shouldn’t assume this will be easy – West Brom held The Most Exciting Team That Ever Existed to a goalless draw at Anfield on Wednesday and have too many solid professionals to be dismissed as an incompetent mess – but they know that nothing but three points will do if they are to have any chance of stopping me from referring to the title race as the title “race”. United begin 14 points behind Manchester City and there can be no bus-parking from them here. Mind you, they were 13 points behind Chelsea at the top of the league this time last year, so at least United are showing signs of improvement under Mourinho.
Kick-off: 2.15pm (GMT).
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