Five things we learned from West Brom 2-2 Manchester United
Coral writers have put their heads together and picked five points of discussion from Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies almost claimed a famous scalp, but Marouane Fellaini and Daley Blind proved unlikely goal heroes to salvage a point for Louis van Gaal.
The Red Devils’ odds have drifted from 16/1 to 20/1 to lift the Premier League title after splitting the spoils with West Brom. Here’s what we learned from their duel.
Roy Hodgson should really give the nod to Saido Berahino
Berahino took advantage of United’s haphazard defending, lying in wait until the time was right to pounce, before beating David de Gea with a brilliant finish. The 21-year-old Burundi-born forward must have been disappointed not to make the last senior England cut, but has gone from strength to strength since his snub.
With six goals in eight Premier League outings this term, Berahino is top English scorer, form which surely can’t be ignored for much longer by Roy Hodgson, especially considering Daniel Sturridge’s absence and Rickie Lambert’s lack of game time.
Marouane Fellaini could still have a future
Regarded as one of United’s biggest flop buys, Fellaini has had a tough time of it since his switch from the Toffees to Old Trafford. Could his instant impact against West Brom be a crucial turning point? The Belgium international was thrown into the fray just after half time, replacing Ander Herrera, and had levelled the score within minutes.
Fellaini’s finish was truly emphatic, as he used his strength to bring down the ball, before rifling an unstoppable shot into the top corner from close-range. Much-maligned for his lack of guile, it was actually his robust nature and drive that changed the game for United and instigated their fight back.
The 26-year-old caused havoc in what appeared to be a free role, making his presence known in almost every corner of the pitch, his confidence buoyed after breaking his Red Devils duck.
United’s defence is still far from the finished article
The Red Devils’ defensive problems have been well documented this season, and the issues still look like they are far from being fixed. Alan Irivne and his tenacious team exploited United’s weaknesses perfectly, but the visitors certainly played their part in their own downfall.
Rafael was nowhere to be seen as Berahino had a free run at De Gea’s net for the second goal and, whilst little could have been done to prevent Stephane Sessegnon’s peach, Andre Wisdom should not have been able to gallop down the left unchallenged.
Much of United’s width and attacking threat is also expected to be provided by the full backs, but both Rafael and Shaw were poor going forward too, contributing a barrel-full of wayward crosses.
Michael Carrick’s return cannot come soon enough
Red Devils fans will be hoping Carrick, who is a notorious slow starter to most seasons, can bed back into the side in quick-time. His calm, composed presence and, more importantly, tremendous ability to read the game and intercept attacks has been sorely missed. The Englishman’s array of long-range passing will also provide United with another much-needed dimension from central positions.
A midfield paring of Carrick and Blind, given time to gel, may not be the most exciting, but would crucially protect the wayward defence and could turn the Manchester giants’ campaign around. He made the bench against the Baggies, but will Carrick be ready to play a part against Chelsea?
Superstars need to step up
Surely the most concerning problem for Van Gaal will be the lack of leadership amongst his best players. Angel Di Maria was wonderful once again, but cannot do it all alone, and had to be brought off early as a safety measure.
It was telling that two defensive-minded players in Daley Blind and Fellaini made the difference in the end, with neither Robin van Persie or Juan Mata grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck in skipper Wayne Rooney’s absence.
Both were anonymous, so perhaps Radamel Falcao deserves a starting spot, with United likely requiring a more forceful and physical presence to trouble Jose Mourinho’s Blues next time out. With Chelsea in fine from, there will be no room for passengers.