A MUST win for Moyes.
Following their 4-1 humbling in the Manchester derby last week, United manager David Moyes admitted things might get worse before they get better. A refreshingly honest admission, perhaps, but it begs an obvious question: How much worse can things get while still having the chance to make things better? A defeat to West Brom doesn’t bear thinking about for Sir Alex Ferguson’s under-pressure successor.
MAN UNITED FORM
- Man Utd 1-0 Liverpool (LC)
- Man City 4-1 Man Utd (Prem)
- Man Utd 4-2 Leverkusen (CL)
- Man Utd 2-0 Palace (Prem)
- Liverpool 1-0 Man Utd (Prem)
WEST BROM FORM
- West Brom 1-1p Arsenal (LC)
- West Brom 3-0 S'land (Prem)
- Fulham 1-1 West Brom (Prem)
- West Brom 0-2 Swansea (Prem)
- West Brom 3-0 Newport (LC)
Not that he should spend too long contemplating this fate. Manchester United have only lost five games at home in the league in the last three seasons, with four of those defeats coming against top-five sides: Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City (twice). It will come as an even bigger shock than last week’s shellacking if West Brom can repeat Blackburn’s unlikely 3-2 victory in 2011.
The League Cup win over Liverpool, while easing some of the pressure on Moyes, also suggested some useful team changes, with Shinji Kagawa and Nani looking like more reliable options than derby-defeat scapegoats Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young
. Javier Hernandez also provided a timely reminder of his dead-eye ability in front of goal, having scored the winner against Liverpool; an excellent option if Robin van Persie fails to recover from his groin injury.
The Baggies will feel like their season is truly underway following their 3-0 victory over Sunderland last weekend. Record signing Stephane Sessegnon impressed in his first outing after joining from the Black Cats, becoming only the third player in Premier League history to score on his debut against his former club.
With Scott Sinclair, Morgan Amalfitano and Nicolas Anelka too, West Brom have the attacking options to trouble a United back-line that has conceded 11 goals in its last six games.
It should be entertaining – after all, the last time these two sides met it finished 5-5 in Fergie's big farewell game.
The only major doubt for United is Van Persie, who has an outside chance of retuning from a groin injury.
For West Brom, Matej Vydra could be available following a hamstring injury, while Steven Reid is in line for a return to the squad after getting through the whole of the Baggies' Capital One Cup defeat against Arsenal. Chris Brunt (groin) and Zoltan Gera (knee) are still out.
Player to watch: Wayne Rooney (Man United)
Four goals in United's last three league and Champions League games suggests Rooney will be central to any win for the home side.
While effectively shackled by Vincent Kompany from open play against City, the Belgian couldn’t stop Rooney scoring from a free-kick, his second long-range set-piece goal in as many Premier League games.
On top of a brace and an assist against Bayer Leverkusen in Europe, where he was United’s best attacking player, the England forward is in the kind of form that might be too much for the Baggies’ back-line.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- West Brom 5-5 Man Utd (Prem, May 13)
- Man Utd 2-0 West Brom (Prem, Dec 12)
- Man Utd 2-0 West Brom (Prem, Mar 12)
- West Brom 1-2 Man Utd (Prem, Aug 11)
- West Brom 1-2 Man Utd (Prem, Jan 11)
It’s a battle of 50-year-old Scottish managers overseeing disappointing starts to the season.
Steve Clarke and David Moyes, born 126 days apart, have both endured underwhelming seasons so far. While there’s not much to separate the pair based on their head-to-head record – one victory each – since their last meeting Clarke has lost Romelu Lukaku in his front-line, while Moyes has gained Rooney, Van Persie and a whole championship-winning side. That's a distinct advantage for the Dumbartonshire native this time around.
Facts and figures
- Man United have conceded 11 goals in their last six Premier League games, one more than they had in their previous 18 games.
- Three of West Brom’s four goals this season have come in the closing 15 minutes of Premier League games.
- Man United have scored 37 goals in 14 Premier League games against the Throstles.
- These sides shared a Premier League record 5-5 draw on the final day of the 2012/13 season.
- Only in two previous Premier League seasons have Man United won only two of their opening six games (2002/03 & 2004/05).
- Stéphane Sessegnon’s goal last weekend was only the third time in PL history that a player had scored a debut goal which also happened to be against his previous club.
- Six of Man United's 13 Premier League titles have seen them win only two of their opening five games.
- Wayne Rooney has scored two of the four longest-range goals in the Premier League this season.
- Michael Carrick has made 26 interceptions this season, eight more than any other top-flight player.
- Carrick has also made the most passes in the opposition half (233), one more than Tottenham’s Kyle Walker and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey.
Manchester United to see off the Baggies with little fuss: 3-1.