Hernandez 5, Nani 25
WEST BROMWICH ALBION 2
Evra (og) 50, Tchoyi 55
Manchester United again surrendered a two goal lead in a game which was littered with errors and indecision. The biggest culprit in the United ranks was goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar in failing to hold an innocuous ball for West Bromwich Albion’s equaliser, but much of what happened before this mistake was to prove the home side’s downfall.
West Brom came to Old Trafford with the kind of attacking intent and confidence they rightly felt following their recent Premier League triumph at the Emirates and despite going two down early they continually troubled United in the centre of midfield. It was this confidence which in fact enabled United to go ahead early on; as in the case of the second goal Roberto Di Matteo’s side overcommitted with the ball in their own half. At this stage of the match it looked a fatal error not to play the stifling defensive game so many teams adopt when facing United. However, with the flimsy nature of the United midfield, West Brom were able to stick to their favoured way of playing and earn a draw.
In starting the match with the combination of Michael Carrick and Anderson in the centre of the park United had no bite in the tackle and due to the falling stature of both players, little in the way of creativity. Replacing the injured Ryan Giggs with the ineffective Darron Gibson added little to a Red Devils midfield which was bypassed for large periods of the game. Both of West Brom’s goals may have finished with individual errors from United but in the build up to both there was ample opportunity to break up the play and get the ball clear. On both occasions United were weak in the tackle and unable to impose any physicality on the play. On a day which earlier in the week was rumoured to see the return of Owen Hargreaves, United have never looked in more need of a player of that stature to plug the porosity between the midfield and the defence.
In terms of creativity the Old Trafford club initially looked strong with Nani starting brightly and Javier Hernandez immediately showing why he was given the nod over Wayne Rooney in attack. However, when United were required to chase the game late on Nani shrunk completely and was unable to even play short passes, continually choosing the wrong option. With the injury to Giggs and little in the way of options on the bench Nani was again thrown into the role of the primary attacking option from midfield – a task which on current evidence seems to be slightly beyond a player only really just finding his form in English football. Hernandez took his goal well and looked lively at times but his inexperience became evident when United were attempting to chase the game. The only real positive for United in an attacking sense was another strong performance from Dimitar Berbatov; however, even he subjected the Old Trafford crowd to individual errors when taking a touch on a chance which begged to be hit first time and missing from close range early on.
Sir Alex Ferguson will be extremely disappointed with the manner in which his side again threw away a lead. This is not something which the Scot is used to seeing from his United sides, however, there was little evidence on this performance to suggest this side possess many of the qualities Ferguson expects and demands.
1 Van der Sar
21 Rafael – 15 Vidic – 5 Ferdinand – 3 Evra
17 Nani – 16 Carrick – 8 Anderson – 11 Giggs
14 Hernandez – 9 Berbatov
42 – 28 Gibson on for 11 Giggs
61 – 71 10 Rooney on for 8 Anderson
71 – 18 Scholes on for 16 Carrick