Manchester United were held to a goalless draw at Old Trafford against West Brom, which has left their chances of a top-four finish hanging by a thread. United’s biggest chances were shot wide by Martial and Fellaini. West Brom came close through Brunt’s long-range effort in the second half, which looked to be a scare as De Gea surprisingly mishandled his tame shot.
United dominated the possession in the entertaining first half, however, neither of the two teams managed to find a breakthrough. Lingard and Fellaini were probably United’s best players in the first half and were involved in a fierce tussle with Nyom and Robson-Kanu, respectively. The home side badly missed Ibrahimovic’s hubris and Herrera’s urgency in the first forty-five minutes. The clearest chance was missed by Martial as he headed Lingard’s beautiful cross wide from close range.
The second half was no different, as United went on attacking while West Brom’s players put their lives on the line to defend resiliently. United missed a number of chances in the second forty-five and came closest through Fellaini who shot wide and Rashford’s free kick which was acrobatically saved by opposition goalkeeper Ben Foster.
With this draw, United have now drawn 8 of their last 12 home matches and lost their chance to capitalise on Arsenal’s match against Man City tomorrow. United are now 4 points behind their ‘noisy neighbours’, who also have a game in hand. United’s challenge for a top four position now looks pretty bleak.
Here are the talking points from the stalemate draw-
1. United need to sign some World Class Attackers next season
United badly missed Ibrahimovic in this match, which once again highlighted his immense importance to Mourinho’s side. The front trio of youngsters like Lingard, Martial and Rashford cannot be relied upon in must-win situations, and so, if United want to realistically challenge for the title next season, they need a world class player who can win matches single-handedly.
2. Ex-Reds were the MVP’s
There were three ex-United players in West Brom’s starting line-up, and all three were the ones that made the difference. Jonny Evans dealt well with the United attackers in a solid outing, while Fletcher didn’t put a foot wrong in the midfield, and showed United just what they lacked in that area due to injuries and suspensions.
3. Mourinho doesn’t fancy Rooney
In a match when United were missing 7 of their regulars, including attackers like Mata and Ibrahimovic, you would’ve expected Mourinho to start Rooney in attack. That was not the case to be, as Rooney was again on the bench for the umpteenth time. This clearly shows that Mourinho does not prefer the Englishman, who looks almost certain to leave Old Trafford in the summer. Even though he came on for the final twenty minutes, he is no longer United’s star player and is more of an impact sub now. A top scorer at the biggest club in the world would not be satisfied by that tag.
4. Depleted United
United came into the match missing 5 regulars due to injury and a further two through suspension. The United squad clearly depicted the current crisis, as youngsters like Tuanzebe and the little known Willock made the bench. Rooney was the only attacker in the subs, which also included defenders like Fosu-Mensah, Blind and Darmian. In a difficult and exhausting run-in of 9 matches in a month, United look in trouble, particularly because Mata, Smalling and Jones could probably miss the rest of the season. How different could things have been had United not sold Schneiderlin, Depay and Schweinsteiger? The question on everybody’s mind, though, would be: ‘Where the hell is Shaw?’ With that, we come up to the conclusion that-
5. Young is the first-choice left back
Mourinho could have started Young in attack to provide more experience to the young trio up front but chose to start him at left back instead. Does this mean that he does not trust his currently available players like Blind and Darmian, who have been played a lot in that position this season? Today’s highly important match looks to have put the problematic position’s worries to rest, as it is now clear that Young is Mourinho’s first-choice left back. Expect him to start in that position in the three most important upcoming matches- Chelsea at home sandwiched between two Europa league ties against Anderlecht. But first, the next match is against Everton, whose confidence looks shattered following their Merseyside derby defeat earlier today.