Manchester United finally have a Premier League win at Old Trafford and a second win in a row in the competition, although they are far from convinced. Ole Gunnar Solskjær hopes his team is making slow progress rather than continuing the stutter that has been the history of his campaign. Bruno Fernandes was once again United’s point man, scoring the winning goal with a repeat penalty, and if he is ever seriously injured, the team may suffer.
Solskjær gave Alex Telles a Premier League debut, in place of the injured Luke Shaw on the left back, while his other change since the Everton win was Nemanja Matic for Scott McTominay in midfield. Paul Pogba was unavailable due to a problem he had playing for France against Sweden on Tuesday.
Slaven Bilic’s team arrived after scoring just six times and with the division’s poorest goal difference at -11, and they started with Sam Johnstone defeating Anthony Martial’s header from a Fred free throw second into the game.
A pattern was established in which United dominated, making the kind of off-hand start that hasn’t always been around so far this season. It was illustrated by Harry Maguire’s back-to-front pass to Marcus Rashford that got the visitors spinning and kicked off an impressive period of fast passing and moving plays.
Still, Matic and Fred’s sloppy gait offered West Brom a foothold as Matheus Pereira looked to cash in on the left although, for the moment, this was just a ray of hope for them.
Soon Fernandes was buzzing across the pitch, prompting United’s best moves, and when Maguire broke down, it was the Portuguese who pulled Martial after Rashford took a pass from his captain down the left and crossed. Johnstone made another good save from number 9 and Semi Ajayi was left blessing his luck, as it was his errant pass that gave Maguire possession.
West Brom’s response was admirable. Suddenly, Conor Townsend was behind and threatened to beat David de Gea before passing the ball. Then Karlan Grant’s shot was deflected off Victor Lindelöf for a corner that United were quick to defend.
The initial verve of the local team had diminished. They still dominated the ball, but rarely penetrated the last third. When Fernandes threw an aimless pass offside, it was a microcosm of how United had lost focus. Fernandes, however, is never ineffective for long. A diagonal pass that saw Juan Mata’s clever run from the right allowed the Spaniard to square the ball towards Martial and, although West Brom survived, United were revitalized.
However, although they hit the ball around the Baggies at will, it was the latter who came closest before the break: Kyle Bartley headed Townsend’s corner kick and De Gea was relieved to see the ball hit the ceiling, in instead of the rear, of the network. , United is the number one who knows little about it.
If United needed a shakeup, West Brom gave them one when, as the second half began, Maguire’s lack of pace meant they were exposed on the right. Suddenly, Conor Gallagher had fallen into the area under Fernandes’ input and David Coote conceded a penalty. However, the VAR informed the referee to consult the field-side monitor and he overruled his decision – it seemed correct as Fernandes had taken the ball first.
Awakened United soon moved downfield and Rashford’s plunge shot into the top corner forced Johnstone to an athletic save. And how luck changed from here.
The VAR, plus an amended part of the penalty rule, worked in United’s favor after a Mata cross hit Darrell Furlong’s hand and Coote conceded a second penalty in minutes. Fernandes’ signature career jump was followed by Johnstone saving his effort, but the keeper was a yard from his line before he hit the ball. This meant that this season’s dictate that the sentence should be repeated was activated.
This time, No. 18 jumped up and then passed Johnstone tall to his right and United took the lead. It felt barely deserved, although they hardly cared given the desperate need to win the league here.
If United expected to go home, Callum Robinson had other ideas, the substitute’s effort crashing into De Gea’s bar. It signaled the opening of the contest: both Rashford and Maguire were turned down by the impressive Johnstone and while West Brom pushed, United held on. It means they are in ninth place with 13 points and if they win their game in hand, the outlook will look even more rosy.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.