Following their narrow 1-0 victory at home to Bournemouth on Wednesday night, Manchester United will be hoping for a better performance but the same outcome when they travel to the Hawthorns Stadium to take on West Bromwich Albion on Sunday afternoon. The Red Devils may have gotten back to winning ways at the Cherries’ expense in midweek, however, their performance left a lot to be desired as they failed to put in the kind of dominant performance many were hoping for. With runaway leaders Manchester City strolling to a 4-1 victory away to Swansea City, the gap at the top of Premier League table between the city rivals remains at 11 points.
The biggest news to come out of United’s victory over Bournemouth was the update on centre-back Eric Bailly’s current injury situation. Having last featured during the Red Devils’ 1-0 defeat away to Chelsea at the start of November, there was an element of mystery surrounding the severity of the Ivorian’s injury and Mourinho admitted that he fears that his star man may require ankle surgery which would leave him with a prolonged spell on the sidelines. In Bailly’s absence, England international Chris Smalling has excelled at the heart of the United defence, and should retain his place against the Baggies. It remains to be seen, though, whether Mourinho will partner Smalling with Phil Jones for the second consecutive match, or summer signing Victor Lindelof.
Having just returned from injury himself, Jones may not be risked just days after completing 90 minutes against Bournemouth, especially with the upcoming hectic fixture period. Marcos Rojo, meanwhile, is expected to be fit for the weekend clash having sat out the visit of Eddie Howe’s men following a head injury sustained in last weekend’s derby defeat. Despite putting in another eye-catching performance at left-back, Luke Shaw is unlikely to start at the Hawthorns, with Ashley Young expected to be reinstated.
In the middle of the park, Mourinho will once again be without the suspended Paul Pogba, who sits out the third of his three-match domestic ban. Nemanja Matic should start in his usual defensive midfield role, whilst youngster Scott McTominay, who impressed against Bournemouth in midweek, will battle it out with Ander Herrera for a berth alongside the Serbia international. Marouane Fellaini, who last featured for United towards the end of November, is suffering from injury and is considered to be a doubt for Sunday’s clash.
Mourinho has a wealth of options to choose from in the attacking third, although the recent form of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford suggests that they will be the pair occupying either flank at the Hawthorns. It will be interesting to see whether Henrikh Mkhitaryan is included in United’s matchday squad, having been completely excluded for seven of the Red Devils’ last eight fixtures. The Armenian’s disappointing recent form has seen him fall way down the pecking order at Old Trafford and it is unlikely that he will be handed a starting berth this weekend.
Up front, Romelu Lukaku headed home a powerful header to get himself back amongst the goals and should lead the line once again, despite the pressure from veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is yet to start a match this campaign, having recently returned from a serious knee injury.
With City facing a potentially tricky fixture at home to Tottenham Hotspur, it is imperative that United pick up all three points at the Hawthorns if they are to keep their faint title hopes alive.