West Brom vs Man Utd Report (Ferguson bows out with a final record in goal mania game)By: Ian | May 21st, 2013
After celebrating his 1499th game at Old Trafford last week, Utd fans had one final opportunity to witness Sir Alex’s Reds in action away to West Brom yesterday. Personally, I didn’t want the game to ever go ahead. I didn’t want to witness the moment where the whistle blew, signalling the end of the game, a game that has been 39 years long, completely unique and utterly special. Unrepeatable. Irreplaceable. But the team bus drew up to the Hawthorns, the teams ran out, and the last 90 minutes of Sir Alex’s career were played out. And what a crazy 90 minutes they were.
Sir Alex had already pointed out changes, so a teamsheet of Lindegaard, Valencia, Jones, Evans, Buttner, Cleverley, Carrick, Anderson, Kagawa, Van Persie and Hernandez came as no surprise. No place for Rooney, the striker continuing his sit-out after his transfer request and picking up several hundred thousand for the privilege. Veterans, Giggs, Scholes, Ferdinand, Evra, Vidic, all made the bench, accompanied with De Gea, and Januzaj (yes, I spelt that correctly). The game began in quick fashion, the Utd players looking like they had heard the message to show their abilities in the send-off to the greatest ever manager. In just the sixth minute, the ball was worked forward from the back in delightful style. An ambitious curling-forward ball seemed to be going out, but Hernandez, who was fantastic throughout, chased it down, got his head up, and delivered the ball in. He supplied a better ball than most of the wingers have provided in many hours, and Kagawa didn’t have to do much to nod it home for 1-0.
One became two very quickly. The man from Japan, Kagawa if you’re not awake, threaded the ball out to the wing to reach the marauding Valencia (decent game by his season standard). He smashed it across the box for defender Olsson to stick out a foot and equalise in terms of goals scored each, but sadly at the wrong end for the Swede. Ex-Red keeper Ben Foster couldn’t do anything about that and 2-0 it was. The Reds continued forward, giving West Brom little to nibble at, putting them firmly on a diet in terms of possession. Another deflection from Olsson could have gone in on a different day and a different prevailing wind, while Hernandez made a general nuisance of himself as he does so well, but was lacking a finishing touch. A Carrick cross found his head, but the Mexican supplied less correct direction than contained in the response of a drunken man asked for a heading.
However, the pressure told once again on the half hour. Some good work on the edge of the box involving Carrick and Hernandez saw Cleverley feed the flying wing-back Buttner. Previously a goalscorer on his debut against Wigan, the young Dutchman thumped in a diagonal shot that would have taken the keeper’s hand off, so perhaps it was just as well he was nowhere near it. 3-0 with the Red Devils rampant, and West Brom performing at complete odds to their excellent season.
Hernandez was having a bit of a shocker in terms of the finishing part of his game, another example coming as Anderson and Valencia combined to supply him. In that vein, Hernandez was fulfilling a gratuitous dual role as Utd’s main forward driver and West Brom’s best defender at this point. 4-0 did not arrive, but 3-1 did, the Baggies taking full advantage of a rare forward foray. A cross from Dorrans met Morrison who got the ball goalwards and past a rather flat-footed Lindegaard, who would come to grow thoroughly disenchanted with the game in the second half. 3-1, with the final chance before the break coming from Hernandez, whose effort was saved easily but diverted back towards the net by McAuley. Foster reacted quick enough to stop another own goal. An important tackle from Evans, after a loss of concentration from Jones, stopped a 3-2 half time score with Long looking as though he was surely in.
Romelu Lukaku, who has been superb for the Brom on loan from Chelsea, was the half-time substitution as WBA looked to wake up. Arise they did, with the powerful young Belgian placing a soft, but accurate, curler around Lindegaard. The Dane got a hand to it, but only helped it in, in what was to many eyes, a situation where he could have done better. However, it didn’t initially look too harmful, as Valencia bombed down the flank to create another Utd opening. Anderson had the first shot, with the move reworked and ending up with Van Persie, who thudded it home for 4-2. That was his 26th league goal, 30th in all, and just made extra sure he got this season’s Golden Boot. A very special player.
Giggs was always likely to make an appearance in Fergie’s finale, and after a block from McAuley at one end and Valencia at the other, he entered the fray and almost immediately made a telling contribution. A free-flowing move saw Kagawa place it into the path of the Welsh wizard, whose cross was kept low and perfectly placed for Chicharito to finally get his name on the scoresheet, capping an excellent performance from the Little Pea, and proving that he can be just as useful starting as a substitute. 5-2 and surely the end of the game as a competition?
However, West Brom had not received any script, and one could not be put together quick enough to stop them revving up as the game ticked on. Aside from Buttner hitting the bar, the attacking momentum began to swing towards the striped players who, despite the deficit and perhaps helped by it, were now playing much more freely. Utd allowed them to, and the defence’s combined brains were proved to be already supping a cocktail of choice on some Caribbean beach, as they were totally at sea for the last ten minutes. In the 80th, a Rosenberg ball was picked up by Lukaku, the Belgian strolling through at a canter and slotting a low shot under Lindegaard for 5-3. The game restarted and less than a minute later, in West Brom’s very next attack, a fourth was bagged for the Baggies as Mulumbu was waved through as swiftly as celebrities at airport customs to tap home a ball from Jones (their Jones, not our Jones – like watching Welsh rugby at times). 5-4 was a bit of a joke, and Utd fans were treated to another, as Scholes picked up a yellow in his final outing. Very fitting. However, Fergie, determined to go out on a win, was not so impressed with affairs and introduced Ferdinand to try and patch up a defence with more leaks than Westminster.
Late goals are a bit of a Utd speciality, but this burst from the Brom, two in a minute, was something else. It was topped off five minutes later with the incredible, a goal-line scramble, with Lindegaard totally averse to putting hands near the ball, with Lukaku just joining the jumble and poking home for his hattrick and West Brom’s fifth. And that was how it ended: 5-5. The first 5-5 draw in the Premiership, so as mentioned in the title and final record, and a crazy ending to Sir Alex’s career.
Now, I’ve been quite even-handed above, but I feel the need to be a little more critical. There are many reasons not to do this, last game of the season, title won, no points incentive, exotic holidays coming up. Mitigating this is the fact that Sir Alex deserved a fitting send-off. He has always supported youth, and made that statement with leaving out the old hands in the defence. While things were going sublimely for the first half hour, I feel that, ultimately, the Reds let Sir Alex down a bit, and the defence quite a lot. Scoring five, terrific, exactly what was called for. Conceding five, handing back a 5-2 to exchange it for a draw? Ludicrous insanity. I was willing the defence in the end to just sort themselves out into a basic structure, just for ten minutes, but they were gone, utterly gone. Taking nothing away from Lukaku, of course, who has shown how advantageous the loan system can be if used properly, but he could at least have been challenged. As for Lindegaard, who has been heavily criticised in the post-match analysis by the media, and who was only present as part of a promise to take him to ten appearances (which was the old target for a medal before the rules changed), his command of his penalty box was simply non-existent. He looked uncomfortable, with a habit of seeming to dive after the ball was in the net, as if in slow motion. At his age, despite his lack of game time, I think I would be forgiven in expecting a little bit more nous in defensive arrangement and, oh, I don’t know, getting involved when needed (5th goal). Disappointing, with Sir Alex’s departing gift a fantastic early wave that peaked far too early.
Rant over, Sir Alex’s era has ended. The picture shows his final salute to the travelling faithful. His reign now begins its journey into the picturesque sunset of Old Trafford history, with the man himself firmly placed in bronze outside the ground. He’ll still be around, but this is the end of his chapter. The next will be written by David Moyes. A chant has already emerged in the stands: “Come on David Moyes, play like Fergie’s boys.” Terrific advice, providing they aren’t referring to an end-of-the-season encounter with West Brom and more the great squads of the last 26 years. Thanks again, Sir Alex, the first and last games might have been forgettable, but the 1498 in between were what counted. What times they were: