Visitors West Brom travelled to Old Trafford with very few expectations after a torrid season and relegation all but imminent. Caretaker Manager Darren Moore needed a response from his team to finish the season with some pride.
Hosts Manchester United will have been buzzing all week after their phenomenal comeback victory against the Citizens. Jose Mourinho wanted his men to keep that edge as they look to keep a hold on second place and win some silverware in the FA Cup.
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Manchester United – 433 – De Gea, Valencia, Lindelof, Smalling, Young (Rashford 75’), Herrera (Lingard 46’), Matic, Pogba (Martial 58’), Mata, Lukaku, Sanchez
West Bromwich Albion – 442 – Foster, Nyom, Dawson, Hegazy, Gibbs, Phillips (Krychowiak 77’), Livermore, Brunt (Yacob 90’), McClean, Rondon (Sturridge 85’), Rodriguez
Manchester United came out on the front foot with some high tempo passing in the West Brom half. They were able to create a few half chances in the opening 10 minutes but lacked the quality to find the breakthrough. After period of sititng deep, West Brom began to put some pressure on United with quality direct play through their strikers. They would get the biggest chance of the game so far as a result, with Rodriguez and Rondon combining to find a wide open Livermore, whose effort from close range was denied by De Gea.
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Manchester United continued to apply pressure and after some neat play out wide, a clear foul on Herrera was not given by Paul Tierney and his crew. Unlucky to not get the spot kick, United kept up the pressure and Foster was forced into a big double save on Lukaku and then Sanchez after an incisive pass from Mata found the free Belgian. Nevertheless, West Brom stayed resilient and looked a different team after the sack of Alan Pardew. Despite a few half chances, United could not find any rhythm in the final third against their resolute defending. Right before the half, United were lucky to clear the danger after a corner to the backpost was headed in front of goal by Dawson, but no one was there to tuck the ball away.
Half time substitute Lingard almost made an instant impact but his effort was vitally blocked. This was a consistent theme in the match, as centre back partners Hegazi and Dawson were immense in front of their goalkeeper, crucially blocking and intercepting anything United tried to create time and time again. Pogba was taken off for Martial in the final half hour after a nonchalant performance and United were going for it with Matic as the lone CDM. With more attacking threat the tide looked to be changing but Foster once again kept his side in the match against his old club with a brilliant save to deny Lukaku in the bottom corner.
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As the final 20 minutes approached West Brom looked reinvigorated, with every chance to steal the glory on the day and boy did they take it. Another fine corner delivery to the backpost from Brunt found Dawson at the backpost. His aerial challenge with Matic forced a ricochet into the six-yard box and this time, Rodriguez popped up to nod the Baggies into the lead. Having looked a threat on set pieces all day, West Brom finally found the breakthrough to provide a sliver of hope in their relegation battle.
A final throw of the dice for Manchester United as Rashford came on for Young in the final 15 minutes but West Brom remained tough and organized. With no initiative in their passing and labored movement off the ball at best, United looked down and out of the match in the second half. All 11 West Brom players played for each other and for the badge whereas that could hardly be said about any of the United team. With some fantastic time management from Darren Moore and his staff, United were unable to conjure any real rhythm or chances and West Brom closed out a sensational victory that probably even their own fans did not see coming.
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MOTM: As a team West Brom were incredible, playing with desire and commitment all over the pitch. There were a few exceptional performances but the standout man was Jay Rodriguez. Clearly with extra fire in his belly after being cleared of all charges against Bong by the FA, Rodriguez not only provided the lone goal but was a force all over the pitch. Whether it was dropping deep to breakup United’s play between the lines or his industry getting forward to pick up second balls, Rodriguez led his team to a deserved three points and helped give the West Brom faithful a silver lining in an otherwise forgettable season.
Written by Ammar Nazarali.
22. Currently living in the great state of Texas. Manchester United Team Correspondent for 90maat. #ILoveThisGame (@FPLAmmar)