Manchester United 1 West Brom 0
Slaven Bilić’s team were on the wrong end of a scandalous VAR-assisted decision at Old Trafford and succumbed to a 1-0 defeat that was harsh on a group of players that put everything into that performance.
One player that stood out once again was Conor Gallagher and he was at the centre of the game’s crucial moments. He was the player fouled for the overturned penalty, and he was also fouled in the build up to United’s penalty, something that the VAR failed to spot.
I’m not against VAR per se, but there have been so many mistakes by the officials in their application of the technology that it is becoming ridiculous. The referee for this match, David Coote, was the VAR who failed to punish Jordan Pickford for his assault on Virgil van Dijk a few weeks ago and, on this occasion, he somehow overturned what was a perfectly good decision. However, I actually blame the man on the video, Peter Bankes, as he never should have suggested that Coote take another look. VAR is supposed to be clear and obvious errors – even if you think Hernandes may have got a toe on the ball before clattering into Gallagher’s shin, there is no way that it is a clear and obvious error.
And then to the second penalty award of the game. Given the current interpretation of the rules (which I think are ridiculous), it is difficult to argue against the award, nor the decision to retake the penalty, but Mr Bankes was once again at fault for not picking up the foul on Gallagher in the build up.
Maybe Albion will be on the right side of a bad decision in the future, but at this time it is very difficult to take.
As for the rest of the game, Albion did what was required in reproducing the level of performance from the Spurs game. They weren’t as effective in attack, but boy did they put a shift in.
Special recognition must go to Sam Johnstone who made two world class saves, three if you include the penalty, plus another three key stops, and Conor Gallagher who was superb, particularly in transition. Conor Townsend was also excellent – Kieran Gibbs will have to wait much longer than his COVID isolation to get back in the side based on that performance. In common with most Baggies fans, I wondered whether Townsend would make the step up to the Premier League but, as a wing back, he certainly has.
With Jake Livermore also missing out due to a positive COVID test, Romaine Sawyers came into the midfield three and put in a steady if not sparkling performance – he certainly benefits from having the legs of Gallagher alongside him.
The back three were excellent with Kyle Bartley putting in a captain’s performance wearing the armband in Livermore’s absence. Semi Ajayi put in what I thought was his best display of the season – he read the game superbly and was able to use his pace to intercept rather than just recover.
Pereira had some really neat touches, worked hard but his final ball was occasionally lacking while I was a little disappointed with the front two, Diangana and Grant. I think Robinson was unlucky not to start, and then equally unlucky not to score with his first touch, a wonderful strike that struck the bar.
While the injustice is raw, it was still a positive performance and there is plenty to be optimistic about. That optimism needs to be turned into results with the run of three games against Sheffield United, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United prime candidates to pick up some points.
For a comparison of this season’s record against previous Premier League campaigns, click here.