Although I’m not part of the club that thinks International breaks are a fun sponge, I do feel excited that the Premier League is back this weekend. Although it seems no one will be able to catch Chelsea who are sitting pretty 10-points clear at the top, there’s still something to play for – the battle for the top four is wide open. As a Manchester United fan, aiming for a top four finish (historically) isn’t what I’m used to, and I always have that in the back of my mind when it comes to expectations. However finishing in the top four is a must this season and being only four points behind Liverpool with two games in hand. If we beat West Brom on Saturday that will put us in a very good position for the home stretch.
It’s difficult to look at past form given the gap between the last games and this weekend. If you disregard the madness that was the Bournemouth game, United have been in very good form and you would expect a comfortable win. Yet I can’t say that, as it seems every team in the bottom half of the table comes to Old Trafford and goes home with a point. Down to a combination of the goalkeepers putting on a cape and 10 outfielders acting like they’re part of the Spartans in the film 300. The Reds have a current ‘unavailable’ list which rivalled the team under LVG. The following players are missing for Saturday’s game:
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ander Herrera through suspensions – Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Paul Pogba miss through injury. The Boss is still waiting to assess Antonio Valencia and Marcos Rojo, we will have more clarity after Friday’s press conference.
Four of those players are over 6’2 in height and of all games, that’s what we didn’t want. I fully expect Fellaini to feature in order to add some much-needed physicality in midfield with Rashford leading the line for his pace in behind the ancient West Brom centre-halves.
West Brom are coming off a very impressive, yet predictable, 3-1 victory over Arsenal at The Hawthorns. Set pieces are always the Baggies’ biggest threat to any team. Their second highest scorer this season so far is centre-back Gareth McAuley with six goals. United will miss the likes of Zlatan, Smalling, Jones and Pogba and I can say for sure I will be holding my breath every time West Brom have an attacking set piece.
It looks like Matt Phillips will have a late fitness test to see whether he can take part this weekend and if he can’t it will be a big miss for Tony Pulis’ side.
This game will be either 1-1 or a 4-1 victory for United. I’m reluctant to be as confident as I usually am given the aerial threat of West Brom combined with the missing United players. I do think they will score from a set piece and it will be vital for United to already be in front when that happens otherwise we are in for another frustrating afternoon at Old Trafford. This is a key game for United and we can’t afford to drop more points at home, anything less than a win will not be good enough and will be a big chance missed to put big pressure on the top four. I never thought a match vs West Bromwich Albion would be so significant.