Manchester United slumped to another disappointing draw after their encounter with West Bromwich Albion resulted in a 1-1 stalemate on Sunday. After going down early, United rescued a point through a Bruno Fernandes volley. Despite their best-attacking efforts, United were unable to break open a defensive and resilient West Brom side.
The starting lineup had no surprises for any fans watching. David de Gea returned as the goalkeeper with Maguire and Lindelof as the center backs. Luke Shaw and Wan-Bissaka were the wing-backs behind Fred and McTominay. The attack consisted of Bruno, Martial, Rashford, and Cavani. Van de Beek, Greenwood, Telles, Bailly, and Williams were among the substitutes.
Manchester United looked to start with a high pressing game hoping to find an early goal. However, it was the hosts who drew first blood. After a good start from the hosts, a cross from Gallagher was headed in by Diagne. Even though it was evident that Diagne had shoved Lindelof to win the header, VAR deemed the goal fair. Quite a shocker from the video officials who seem to be making a lot more calls against United since Klopp’s comments last month. United were behind on the road yet again, and their painful search for an equalizer thus began. West Brom resorted to a 9-man defense pitched in their box and cleared any and every ball that came their way.
Although United were attacking well, they lacked the cutting edge in the final third. Johnstone made a comfortable save off a shot from Fred. The former United goalkeeper troubled the visitors in the reverse fixture as well- pulling off miraculous saves. Similarly in this game, he denied United for virtually the entirety of the match. The Red Devils controlled possession for the majority of the first half, as West Brom looked to defend and counter. In one such scenario, David de Gea pulled off a good save to keep United in the game. As has been the case in previous games, United’s passive and slow playmaking was yielding no results.
United’s forwards were too static during corners and other crossing situations. However, in the 45th minute, Bruno Fernandes took things into his own hands and made the game all-square. The midfielder volleyed a beautiful cross from Shaw into the top left giving United the edge going into halftime. Despite struggling for a majority of the game, the Portuguese magnifico found the goal that the team needed. In the dying seconds of the first half, United broke away for a counterattack but the referee decided to blow the whistle for half time.
In the second half, West Brom upped the ante and were now defending with all 11 players in the box. In the 50th minute, Rashford whipped in a cross from the right but nothing doing. A bit disappointing again from Rashford who repeatedly tried to do too much instead of playing the ball early. I would also question Martial’s positioning for the cross as he was just too far away from the goal despite being a striker. Bruno had another chance minutes later but he chose to shoot instead of crossing and the ball rolled to Johnstone. Manchester United had a penalty called in the 63rd minute but VAR intervened and deemed it offside. In the 67th minute, United brought on Mason Greenwood in place of Anthony Martial. The visitors had another attempt off a corner but Greenwood’s shot was blocked by West Brom’s numerous defenders. The ball fell to McTominay right after but his shot was blocked off the line as well.
The Red Devils had another chance when Bruno floated a ball towards the far post, but Wan-Bissaka’s squared header found nobody. Shortly after, van de Beek came on to replace Fred as Ole looked to go all-out and win 3 points. However, as United went all-out, West Brom caught out United on the counter attack. Diagne had a chance but David de Gea pulled off a spectacular foot save to deny the West Brom striker. The striker almost scored in the 88th minute but his shot went just over. In the final seconds of the game, Harry Maguire headed the ball towards the far corner but a fingertip save from Jonstone denied United all 3 points as the sides shared the spoils in a rough encounter.
Yet another draw for this United team that seems unable to defend. The video officiating has been subpar in the past few weeks. If such is the case, then the goals overturned at Sheffield and Burnley should’ve been given without question. United have seen the bad side of VAR decisions since Jurgen Klopp’s comments in January. Besides that, West Brom’s “strategy” of throwing everyone behind the ball also gave United plenty of frustration. I will point a finger at the manager as there seems to be no desire and commitment in our attack where Maguire, Shaw, and Wan-Bissaka were the players with the most touches in the game. Despite controlling 73% of possession, United’s forwards failed to make any significant impact. Much of that comes from our predictable and slow playing style where we knock the ball around the wings instead of crossing towards the middle.
A disappointing draw for United as they have now dropped points in 5 out of 7 previous premier league games. As the title seems gone, United now find themselves in battle for second place with Leicester City. The Red Devils now travel to Turin to play Real Sociedad in the Europa League before hosting Newcastle in the league next weekend. If United wish to compete for the title or any other significant silverware, they must address their defensive issues. Furthermore, they must also address their predictable and indirect playing style which has now been studied and observed by every team in the league. Innovation is key if Ole wants to lead this team to bigger and better things.