Man Utd vs West Brom Match Report (Early goal at Old Trafford and it wasn’t against them!)By: Ian | December 30th, 2012
So we reach the last game of 2012 with a Manchester United team, riddled with problems and criticism, riding atop the league table, the prospect of facing of Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League, and an even more mouth-watering clash against West Ham in the FA Cup in early January. It has been very difficult watching Utd this season. Old Trafford is sometimes criticised as being ‘quiet’ during games, almost if the fans are sitting there just waiting to be entertained. Not so this season, it’s just they’ve usually been stunned into silence. Going behind early, and looking frail throughout on occasion, is just not something Utd fans are used too. However, we’ve somehow managed to top the table as mentioned, even beating City in the derby. It’s confusing, but not too damaging in terms of points or progress. Yet.
Anyway, year summary over, West Brom were the visitors yesterday at Old Trafford. Utd welcomed back Kagawa into the fold after injury, with Welbeck (who wasn’t quite as awful as I’d expected – but still quite poor) leading the line on his own. Behind him: De Gea in the goal, Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Kagawa and Young. Not the sort of team to control things, particularly up top, but Utd did surprisingly settle early. WBA’s striker Shane Long did go through too easily at the offset, but it was a one-off threat. Following that, the breakthrough came in the 9th minute.
Young cut in to pass to Kagawa, who played a nice ball over the top to return it. Not dealt with, Young received it again and sent in the low cross, which deflected straight in off McAuley’s outstretched leg. Former Utd keeper, Ben Foster, had no chance, much like his early-career situation at Old Trafford really. The key was not to lose the advantage and fortunately, Utd didn’t. They pressed more, looking for the second, with Cleverley trying to pass long for Welbeck, who had another chance after being supplied by Kagawa. A Carrick attempt was blocked well, and although it didn’t prove deadly, the attacking intent was, at least, present.
Ashley Young, who got the picture this week as it’s been so bloody long since he did anything to deserve one, was involved in pretty much every chance for the rest of the half. He tried to header back a Welbeck deflected shot, but it was over, and then, in a great attempt, Kagawa released Valencia to cross in for Young, who played a controlled effort that required a wonderful save from Foster to make it hit the woodwork. The subsequent corner found Carrick seeing another attempt blocked, this time by Tamas. Further corner chances saw Vidic having a headed chance, but the Serbian’s attempt wasn’t on target.
Odemwingie was too wide to cause much danger with a infrequent Albion forward foray, whilst Utd saw Welbeck charging down a Foster goal kick, nearly with positive rewards. Some freekicks for WBA ended the half, but the scoreline, although slight, held in Utd’s favour. Half-time gave Brom the chance to get some energy and they improved thereafter, possibly heartened by Utd’s inability to add goals to their dominance of play. Brunt slammed an attempt straight at De Gea, but this week the young Spanish stopper held, rather than parrying dangerously.
Utd had lost their momentum and were struggling to get it back. Valencia had an attempt saved by Foster, followed by an obvious substitution if you want goals: Kagawa for Buttner. Sorry, actually, it was Van Persie, and he was ready to fire again. Lukaku came on for WBA to provide some zest for their attack as both sides continued to chase the game. Albion came closest when McAuley, trying desperately to atone for his own goal earlier, climbed over Smalling to head onto the bar. A free kick was awarded, but it was a let-off for Utd with their slender lead. Utd then switched to an unusual defensive formation, with Valencia moving backwards to get five men in the back row. This sent out messages about just the sort of confidence Utd have in their defence at the moment, and it was a nervy time as the clock ticked down.
RVP was now up front on his own and any attack came through him. Evra managed to get the ball to him, but Foster saved with the legs, while Vidic diverted Odemwingie’s attempt for a nervous corner. But never fear, Van Persie is here. The Dutchman can work magic, and he provided a timely end-of-year treat. Substitute Scholes, who did well in calming the midfield, looked like he was going for a trademark belter, but after a blocked effort, he fed Valencia instead, who in turn supplied Van Persie. The Dutchman picked his spot and sent a beautiful curling effort around Foster for 2-0 on the 90. Game, set, match.
Nice to see a clean sheet to end the year and, despite all the problems mentioned at the start, Utd go into the New Year with a SEVEN-point lead. New Year’s Day sees Utd play again, squad rotation necessary with this heavy fixture list at the moment (love it!), against a struggling Wigan side. Three point must be considered the only acceptable outcome there.
Thoughts, comments, rants, questions, queries etc below.