United fans must have been hoping for a response at Old Trafford after they were blown away at Goodison Park last week. Key players like Juan Mata and Daley Blind came out in public and seemed all pumped up, only to be absolutely ‘toothless’ and were beaten again, this time by West Brom at Old Trafford. United have lost 3 consecutive games in a row for the first time since 2001, a feat they will not be proud of. Even David Moyes managed to stay away to get that record under his belt.
Manchester United came into this match with a chance to go second with both Manchester City and Arsenal due to play tomorrow and day after. The Reds still missing Michael Carrick in midfield started with Herrera at no. 6 and Wayne Rooney dropping back to aid him. Robin Van Persie started the game after a long spell on the sidelines due to injury. The game started rather slowly, much to the dislike of the United faithful. They still had chances in the first half but did not score and ended the first half goalless.
With Liverpool winning today, United were under a bit of pressure with the team from Merseyside just 4 points behind them. That should have been some motivation for United to get a result here but they were soon placed under misery as Jonas Olsson scored off a deflection from a Chris Brunt. Old Trafford was stunned with David de Gea left rooted to his spot. The visitors lead 1-0 and their gameplan was working spot on.
Van Gaal has often been criticised for some of the strange decisions. The world witnessed another one today when he somehow talked Van Persie into playing in central midfield. The Dutch striker clearly looked unhappy but went about his business. He also had United’s best chance to score off a penalty but failed to score as the Baggies goalkeeper stepped up and saved the kick from the spot. That was perhaps United’s only clear chance on goal and were rather predictable and easy to defend the whole match.
Manchester United have been clearly been caught out after those wins against Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City. Mourinho seems to have provided the blueprint to play against them. Its’s been 3 games since that 4-2 routing of Manchester City. 11 goals in 3 games against those top sides and then United have failed to score 1 in the last 3 games. The 4-3-3 which the United manager prefers has suffered since Michael Carrick went off injured in the derby. Nobody has replaced the dirty and good work the English midfielder did for most parts of the season and now they find themselves just 4 points above 5th placed Liverpool with tricky games against Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Hull City to go.
Manchester United can still finish in the top 4 should Chelsea beat Liverpool next week and United beat Palace away. That scenario will open up a 7 point gap again and would ensure a Champions League playoff place. Having said that, Selhurst Park is always a difficult place to go to, particularly at this stage of the season. Ask Liverpool fans and they’ll tell you. Also, a home tie against Arsenal will be anything but a walk in the park and neither would Steve Bruce’s Hull give the Red Devils an easy ride. It will be a tight finish for the top 4 for the both boys in Reds.