Manchester United won 2-1 away at West Brom, with first-half goals from Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard proving enough to claim all three points, even though Gareth Barry’s late goal did raise heartbeats for those of a United persuasion.
Here are some of the major talking points from the game –
United dig in and get the job done again
This was another scrappy win for United, following on from the 1-0 home win over Bournemouth in midweek. While City are playing some of the best football in Europe, United are battling and hustling their way to victories. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it is a truism of the Premier League era that winning without playing well is a hallmark of a title-winning side. United were not especially fluid again in cold, damp conditions, but they got the goals to seal the win. Scrappy wins like these, especially away from home, could be worth their weight in gold in the rare event of a City slip-up. As it stands though, United are 11 points behind their city rivals, and while their points total would be good enough to be challenging for the title in most seasons, City’s form has meant that the Red Devils are just about clinging on in the title race.
Lukaku is back
Romelu Lukaku scored his third goal in four games here, with a back-post header quite similar to the one against Bournemouth. He declined to celebrate here as well; perhaps out of respect for the time he spent at the Hawthorns on loan from Chelsea, perhaps because he was aware of the gap United have to make up on City. Nevertheless, the Belgian looks to have found his scoring touch again, after a run of one goal in 12 games previously. An in-form Lukaku is vital to United’s hopes this season, as they lack a reliable goalscorer elsewhere in the side, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic being restricted to cameos off the bench so far. Lukaku’s record against top-six sides remains spotty, but he scores against the league’s lesser lights, and a flat-track bully will be needed as United look to close the gap on City.
Lingard turning vital
Jesse Lingard turned 25 on Friday, and celebrated in the best possible way, scoring his fourth goal in five games. He has now scored or assisted a total of seven goals in the league, the same number as Alexis Sanchez, Sadio Mane and Eden Hazard, much more acclaimed names. Lingard always contributed off the ball with his pressing and intelligent movement, but he has now added goals to his game from the #10 position. Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s continued absence from matchday squads is proving to be in Lingard’s favour; the Armenian looks to be on his way out of Old Trafford, while the Mancunian seems to have cemented his place in the side.