Albion travel to Old Trafford on Saturday looking to repeat a feat they last achieved some 56 years ago, win at Old Trafford for a third successive time. Albion’s win back in May was a typical Tony Pulis team performance with Jonas Olsson grabbing the only goal of the game in a “backs-to-the-wall” performance, and most will be expecting something similar this weekend.
When the Baggies got that third successive win back in 1959, it was against a United side that were still in a period of recovery after the Munich air disaster. Burnside, Hogg and Allen all netted for the visitors in a 3-2 win; the first match in that stretch was a 4-0 win for Albion just a month after the air crash in March 1958.
The Red Devils are once again in a period of recovery, this time from the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson; it’s hardly in the same category but you couldn’t see Albion winning twice at Old Trafford against one of Fergie’s teams.
Albion’s record against United has been respectable since that 5-5 draw in his last game as manager. Just one defeat, 3-0 at the Hawthorns to Moyes’s side in March 2014, with a draw against Van Gaal’s side last season adding to the two wins at the Theatre of Dreams.
Tony Pulis may be dreaming of another away win this Saturday and, given his team’s home form, it would be very welcome. The capitualtion against Leicester City last weekend was disappointing if not unexpected. Albion may have come close to grabbing a point late on, but that in itself left me incredibly frustrated.
If they could finish the game so strongly with the likes of Callum McManaman on the field, why did we not start like that? McManaman is one of a small number of players in the Albion squad who have the ability to take players on and beat them – he won a penalty with near enough his first touch of the ball. Since he was man of the match against Chelsea (when he also won a penalty), he has started just one game in the Premier League and that is a waste of talent. James McClean has been playing well, and while he works hard, he is not going to beat too many players and, at the Hawthorns in particular, that’s what Albion need. While Sessègnon has come from nowhere to start three games on the trot, McManaman remains benched (although that is closer to the first team than Serge Gnabry!).
I’m guessing that the reason McClean is being preferred to McManaman is for his defensive work. Albion’s makeshift left back, Chris Brunt, needs support which therefore begs the question as to why our specialist left back continues to be ignored.
Brunt is doubtful for the game at Old Trafford and it gives Pulis the perfect opportunity to give Pocognoli an opportunity, so what’s the betting that McClean drops to left back and Craig Gardner comes in on the left side of midfield?
As I’ve just said, Chris Brunt is a doubt having picked up an injury in the defeat to Leicester, while Ben Foster remains sidelined.
For the hosts, Luke Shaw is a long term absentee with a broken leg and Antonio Valencia is out for a few more weeks. Morgan Schneiderlin is perhaps the only other likely starter who is struggling to make the game, while James Wilson and Paddy McNair are also doubts.
Apparently, only one team has had fewer shots in the Premier League this season than Manchester United, and that team is West Bromwich Albion, so I don’t think anyone is expecting a goalfest. Both sides have been struggling for goals this season, but they have thirteen clean sheets between them in their 22 games.
That all points to a 0-0 draw but, whether it’s my heart ruling my head I’m not sure, I think this is just the sort of game that Tony Pulis sides are likely to win and I’m going for another piece of history for the Baggies.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
2 May 2015 – Premier League
Manchester United 0
West Brom 1 (Olsson)
Albion’s Record against Manchester United
|Premier League Record|