Manchester United will be hoping to build on their confidence boosting Champions League in the week by return to form domestically as they entertain West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
The Old Trafford faithful clearly made their feelings known against CSKA Moscow, crying for their team to attack with greater purpose and then an almost universal chorus of boos when Anthony Martial was substituted by manager Louis van Gaal. The decision was eventually vindicated to the extent that United were able to find a winner in the end through recently maligned captain Wayne Rooney, but many feel disillusioned by the club’s recent displays.
Rooney’s header was the first goal his side had scored in any competition for nearly 400 minutes of football, stretching back to the reverse fixture with the Russians on October 21, and with a team led by a master of defensive organisation in Tony Pulis providing the opposition here, this is likely to be another tricky encounter for the Red Devils. The visitors can be expected to sit back in numbers, so patience will be required in abundance.
Pulis has seen his Albion team fail to keep a clean sheet in one of their five Premier League away matches so far this season, so he has clearly found a successful formula on the road. The Welshman will just be a little frustrated with the home record, which reads just the one win and four defeats from six outings. They come unstuck again on their own turf last weekend as the Leicester City machine overcame them, with Pulis venting his anger at the officials for saying no to two strong penalty shouts.
The West Midlands side has won on each of their last two visits to Old Trafford, so will not be daunted by the surroundings. There will also be an incentive for several players among their ranks who used to represent United including Jonathan Evans and Darren Fletcher, whose experience is certainly benefitting Albion. They will be keen to keep Martial quiet in the same way in which they failed with Riyad Mahrez against Leicester.
Matteo Darmian is suspended for the home side having accumulated five yellow cards, while Antonio Valencia is still out with a foot injury. Morgan Schneiderlin should return after illness.
West Brom have doubts over a couple of players, but James Morrison may be handed a start after coming off the bench against Leicester.
Last Meeting: West Brom executed their gameplan to perfection when they won at Man Utd back in May, defending in numbers for long periods and grabbing a goal during one of their rare ventures into the opposition half. The goal was something of a fluke, with Jonas Olsson unwittingly deflecting a free-kick from teammate Chris Brunt past a helpless David De Gea, but it was enough to condemn United to a third straight loss.
Played for both – Jonathan Greening: The combative defensive midfielder got his first chance in the Premier League with Man Utd in 1998, but over three years at the club he struggled to establish himself and left after making just 14 top-flight outings. In 2004 he joined West Brom and was a regular over five seasons, scoring four times in 106 league appearances.
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