A lot to talk about tonight so I’ll get straight to it.
United picked up a much needed point at a poor West Brom side after battling back from a two goal defecit. After starting the game very well, we were then very bad before coming good again and dominating the last half hour.
Rafa hinted at changes and there were plenty. His most positive change was to finally drop Rob Elliot for Darlow, who should have started the season in goal after an excellent showing last season. Elliot just hasn’t been making saves recently and seems rooted to his line often.
The rest of the changes saw Hayden and Merino come in to the middle of the pitch and Chancel Mbemba coming in for Manquillo. West Brom are, like many Premier League sides, absolutely massive. Marty Phillips is a massive winger and Manquillo may well have struggled against him physically. Perez came into support the retained Joselu and Yedlin kept his places after a stinker on Saturday, though he wasn’t the only one.
Thw Hawthorns was almost full after thousands of season ticket holders had stopped coming under Pulis, and there was a bit of love for Gary Megson for the home fans. The away end was sold out and 2,600 mags were in good voice as things got under way.
As is our way we started well. We always start well, even when we’re rubbish. We also always look a bit toothless upfront and for all the neat and tidy football we played, I never felt we were going to score. Neither were West Brom like and aside from a Rondon pot shot which didn’t worry Darlow or the away end until it skimmed the bar, there was not a lot happening despite our busy football.
The Hawrhorns is a canny ground with decent acoustics to keep the noise in, but sets of fans had been kept pretty quiet by the lack of action on the pitch. The last ten minutes of the half were poor from United as we got deeper and deeper before conceding a goal RIGHT ON HALF TIME AGAIN. Three games in a row. It happened last season too, regularly. It needs sorted.
Murphy gave the ball away cheaply in midefield (mistake number 1) and then Yedlin got caught under the ball (mistake number 2) and Gibbs broke free down our right. Yedlin seemed to catch up with him but decided not to foul him (mistake number 3) which he should have done and just taken the booking. Full backs do it every week. It was so naive.
Thats because we’re just a nice, naive team. Every time a West Brom forward player was fouled they’re moaning to the ref. Probably not about anything in particular, they’re just letting the ref know they aren’t happy. Jacob Murphy gets past his man twice in the first half and just gets pulled back. Both bookings but nought given. No one moans though. No one runs across to the ref to let him know that was a booking. Yedlin needs to foul Gibbs outside the area and instead they score. Four goals out of five have come down his side in the last two.
Apart from that we were back to looking defensively sound and the two centre backs were having far better games than Saturday, which in fairness wasn’t hard. Bastards though. West Brom are really bad and were 1 up at half time. I can’t think of an away game under Rafa where we’d come back to get anything away from home when behind at half time besides Brighton in March. So I wasn’t confident.
That lack of confidence turned to dread on 56 after Marty Phillips put in a brilliant ball for their young lad to knock home. The game looked done and to be honest it had been all West Brom since the 40th minute.
Joselu seemed to be getting the majority of grief from the people in the away end who just emit bile for 90 minutes towards their own team. The manager is back to begging the fans to stay behind the lads, not that these pricks care. Joselu did what was asked of him. He ran about, won loads in the air (which makes a massive difference, as he won nought on a Saturday and the ball just kept coming back) and generally brought team mates into the game about 40 yards from goal. If you want to scream abuse at anyone, do it at the manager, who picks him and asks him to undertake the role he does. He was much better tonight even though I’ll be surprised if he scores more than 5 this season.
United put some pressure on and Merino, who was decent but clearly not fully fit, hit a great shot which Forster just about kept out with a good save. The goal was direct from a corner and Clark was unmarked in the 6 yard box. Not very ‘West Brom’ that but then neither is appointing Alan Pardew as manager and they’ve gone and done that.
It was all us and about 10-15 minutes later Mitrovic and Aaron’s came on alongside Shelvey as we pushed for a deserved equaliser. Aaron’s won back possession (something he did all game) and put in a great ball which Perez somehow missed and Ritchie hit only to be denied by a wonder save from their keeper…who himself was denied the acclaim by the offside flag. No matter, there was only one team in it and our decent build up play was rewarded when the much improved Yedlin was brought down by McClean who looks as comfortable at full back as Aaron’s did there when McClaren played him there at Chelsea last time we were there ( 5 1).
Matt Ritchie smashes the ball and Rondon flicked it into his own net. Great scenes in the away end and it was the least we deserved. We couldn’t force a winner and West Brom resorted to actively time wasting. At home. Against us.
We couldnt get the goal and it finished 2 2. We move into 12th on 15 points. The three point gap with our opposition is maintained and we can look to Chelsea with some hope. The squad rotation worked and the bench looked much stronger as a result. Isaac Hayden came back in and did very well. Merino looks good and I hope to see him alongside Shelvey on Saturday. Perez frustrated but since he was dropped, we had lost every. He’s back in and we don’t look as vulnerable.
Aarons did himself no harm of pushing for a start. Ritchie has been out of sorts but got two assists tonight and we looked dangerous with him on the ball as we pushed for the equaliser. Mitrovic probably did enough to push for a start on Saturday.
The madman inside me would love to see him and Gayle start together. He did well when he came on. I’ve seen some laughable stuff on social media that he ‘changed the game’. It was 2 1 and we already looked dangerous however I was impressed with his willingness to run in between Jonny Evans and Nyon. It caused them problems and probably pushed W brom back a further 5 yards.
Those runs are the kind of things his critics (like me) consistently point to him not doing – so it was positive to see him making runs, demanding the ball and generally helping the team. He didn’t have a shot or score though lads, let’s keep the Ballandor in the cupboard for now. Still, Joselu could do with a break and Mitrovic has a knack of doing it against the better teams. He should be in with a shout for Saturday.
Overall I can’t help but be pleased. A point away from home in this league is not to be sniffed at and I’m pleased for the 2,600 (the ones that don’t scream abuse at their own players) that we got two goals and a point. There’s a long way to go. Back the lads.
Mags left the ground singing ‘You’re getting Pardew in the morning’ (to the tune of ‘sacked in the morning’) and we all laughed.
It could have been better tonight but looked like it was going to be much worse. Well done United. Let’s go and beat Chelsea.
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
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