Manchester United secured all three points in a hard fought 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, with goals from Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard enough to bring them back to being 11 points behind table toppers Manchester City.
The game was quite a drab affair till the Baggies turned on the heat in the second half, but they failed to come away with anything from the game and plummeted into the relegation zone as a result. There were positives for them to take away from the game though, despite failing to win their 16th consecutive game in a row.
Here are 5 talking points from the encounter:
5. Lukaku enjoys a happy return to The Hawthorns… but you wouldn’t know it.
Romelu Lukaku made his return to familiar territory against West Brom, and it is fair to say it was a happy one. The striker spent the 2012-13 season at the club on loan from Chelsea, and it was a season to remember for him, as he scored 17 goals for them in the league – ironically more than any Chelsea player had managed.
It was the season where he really began to announce himself as a potential world beater, and it was clear that the Baggies hold nothing but fond memories of him.
The last time the striker was involved in a fixture between these two teams at the Hawthorns, it was for the home side. He scored a late hat-trick in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last ever game as a manager to steal a draw for his side in the highest scoring game in the Premier League till date – the score was 5-5.
His form has been quite average of late, but Lukaku managed to score his second in two consecutive games with a lovely header. Was he happy to score? You’d never be able to tell, because there wasn’t the slightest hint of even a grin on his face. He chose not to celebrate, and got bashed for it by fans and pundits.
One could argue that it was out of respect for his former club, but the Belgian didn’t celebrate his goal against Bournemouth either. Some believe it is out of retaliation for all the criticism he has been receiving, but there appears to be something seriously wrong with the striker in terms of his attitude towards the fans lately.
4. Lingard continues his purple patch.
With Henrikh Mkhitaryan dropped, Jesse Lingard was finally given a chance to make a difference, and he has taken it with both hands. The 25-year-old has been in great form recently, especially in front of goal.
A willing runner, Lingard adds an energetic presence to the squad, and his tireless pressing and running between the channels has paid off massively in recent weeks.
His strike against the Baggies was his fourth goal in the last five games he’s played, and he seems to be becoming a crucial player in Mourinho’s squad.
3. Barry and Brunt as influential as ever.
At the ages of 36 and 33 respectively, Gareth Barry and Chris Brunt aren’t exactly in the primes of their youth anymore. They are a part of the Premier League’s golden oldies, and are slowly approaching the end of their careers.
However, they have proved time and again that their age does not mean they cannot still make a difference to a game. In this match, they did ultimately fail to do so, but definitely were the difference after coming on in the second half.
The Baggies were completely outplayed in the first half, and seemed to have no way of getting back into the game, having gone into the break 2-0 down. But after the old guard was brought on in the second half, there was a visible improvement in the home side’s play, and they threatened to cause United to lose even more ground in the title race.
Brunt, especially, was a menace when he came on, sending some magnificent left-footed crosses into the box, and was always a threat. The two veterans ended up combining for their side’s goal, with Brunt sending a dangerous ball into the box from a corner that former Manchester City man Barry managed to scramble into the net.
If used wisely, the duo may prove crucial to Alan Pardew, as he attempts to save West Brom from relegation.
2. Baggies break a 139-year-old unwanted record.
West Brom are in free fall at the moment, and it has led to them picking up a record that they probably wanted to avoid at all costs. Their defeat to United meant that they have now gone 16 consecutive games in the Premier League without a single win – a new club record.
The Baggies have fallen into the relegation heap, and could be bottom of the table if Swansea win their game against Everton tomorrow. The consolation goal they managed to score against United also happened to be their first goal since Alan Pardew took over as manager.
There were clear signs of improvement at the Hawthorns in the second half, as West Brom threw everything they could at Mourinho’s men.
They failed to come away with anything in the end, but they will take their spirited fightback as a positive going forward, and will hope to see more of that in the coming weeks, or else they are set to be involved in a relegation scrap that they may never get out of.
1. Mourinho uses West Brom’s own tactic against them.
Ahead of the game, a few reports from ESPN revealed that United had been studying West Brom’s style of play carefully, and had identified a tactic of theirs that had proved to be a major influence in securing a 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield – time-wasting.
Apparently, Alan Pardew instructed his squad to waste as much time as possible to slow the game down, and it proved to be a major annoyance to the home side but it worked.
They could do no such thing against United though, after going 1-0 down to Lukaku’s header. From then on, it appeared as if Mourinho had decided to use Pardew’s very own tactic against him.
United began to slow the game down, taking as much time possible with every free-kick and throw-in as they could. Nemanja Matic even received a booking late on for time-wasting. A perfect practical display of the popular phrase ‘a taste of your own medicine’.
Manchester United fan, Wayne Rooney is his role model. Passionate writer who has written for several sites in the past. He’s also an aspiring pianist and creates background music for BlameFootball’s Youtube channel.