Sunday’s trip to the Midlands should be straight-forward for Manchester United, but that isn’t always the case.
Since a favour from Jose Mourinho wasn’t forthcoming this weekend, Manchester United start the day in third looking to jump back above Leicester City and keep Manchester City within viewing distance. The upside is that Leicester’s win over Liverpool potentially does wonders for solidifying United’s top four place.
A win against West Bromwich Albion would see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side stretch their lead over Liverpool to eight points and the gap to Mourinho’s Spurs increase to twelve. Obviously, the likes of Everton, West Ham and Aston Villa will fancy their chances in maintaining a push but a period of relative consistency over the next six weeks should see Manchester United comfortably qualifying for the Champions League again.
There have been moments of shakiness on the consistency front of late, though. On top of that, the Europa League and the Thursday-Sunday routine returns this week to add to United’s list of challenges. That being said, this team’s away record has been impeccable for over a year now and is just about as consistent as you could hope for.
Whilst Manchester United travel to the Hawthorns on the back of 120 minutes in the FA Cup against West Ham United, they have had a decent rest period between games in comparison to the majority of the season. Changes were also made against the Hammers which should mean a few key players are reasonably fresh.
The management of the squad has been key to Solskjaer’s side enjoying good runs of form in the first half of the season but there’s a sense that it will now become even more important. The likelihood of players starting multiple games back to back will surely lessen given the turnaround time from European games to Sundays in the Premier League.
The likes of Luke Shaw, Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay and Edinson Cavani weren’t introduced until late on in Tuesday night’s win and will all expect to come back into the side. David de Gea also had the evening off duty and should return between the sticks; Dean Henderson’s next opportunity to put the number one under pressure will probably only be a matter of days away against Real Sociedad.
In general, other than the near-certainty of Harry Maguire starting virtually every game, it’s going to become harder to second guess who the United boss goes with from game to game across the competitions. That will potentially hinge on which competition is looking more favourable as the weeks go on, despite Solskjaer’s assertions that they will take each game as it comes.
However, as the Europa League slog hasn’t yet commenced, we can probably expect to see a team that is pretty close to what the manager regards as full strength against West Brom. The midfield pairing is likely to consist of McTominay and Fred with Donny van de Beek having to settle for European football as long the run continues. The Dutchman struggled again in midweek, not quite gelling with his teammates for what could be various reasons; it’s hard to envisage him getting a second bite at the cherry in a single week, especially not at number ten with Bruno Fernandes fit.
Up front, Mason Greenwood has played a lot recently but he has also been one of United’s better performers in that time. There’s a good chance that he retains his place for this one alongside Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani with Anthony Martial getting the chance to improve his fortunes in Turin on Thursday.
It should go without saying that this is a game Manchester United will be expecting to win. West Brom’s form and defensive record has shown little to no improvement under Sam Allardyce as they continue to ship goals at home and on the road.
A professional performance from the Reds should be enough to get the job done and reclaim second place, but this United team do have it in them to make life difficult for themselves. Solskjaer’s men cannot afford to leave the door open for both of their North West neighbours to take advantage.
Score Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Manchester United
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West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester United (Last 5 Meetings)
November 2020: Manchester United 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
April 2018: Manchester United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion
December 2017: West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Manchester United
April 2017: Manchester United 0-0 West Bromwich Albion
December 2016: West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Manchester United