Top five talking points: Man Utd 2-0 West Brom
1. United fans can finally enjoy an international break this season
This victory was not pretty, in-keeping with United’s recent performances, but it was the club’s second successive win and a fifth straight clean sheet in all competitions. The other positive for United’s fans is that this result affords them the luxury of a more comfortable international break.
At the start of September, the Old Trafford club spent the international break licking the wounds of a 2-1 defeat at Swansea. They had to stew over a humiliating 3-0 defeat at Arsenal prior to the last break. This will be a welcome change.
2. Mistakes from unlikely sources cost the Baggies
Tony Pulis must have been quietly confident of his team’s chances prior to this game because his defensive tactics were enough to stop a much more formidable United outfit last May when West Brom won 0-1 on their last visit to Old Trafford.
The Baggies started this game with a good shape, but they gifted United the opener when Chris Brunt actually assisted Jesse Lingard’s goal by knocking down his header to the feet of the grateful English winger.
Gareth McAuley then gifted United a penalty in stoppage time by lunging in when he could have stayed on his feet and let Anthony Martial take a shot from an acute angle.
Probably the most memorable mistake happened at the other end when United led 1-0. In the 74th minute, Saido Berahino had a gilt-edged chance sully David De Gea’s clean sheet on the Spaniard’s birthday, but the forward directed his header over the bar. Pulis later admitted his shock at the inexplicable miss because Berahino is the best finisher at West Brom.
3. Louis Van Gaal can afford to poke fun at United’s supporters after the comfortable win
The Old Trafford faithful have recently been venting their frustration at the team’s lack of creativity. Van Gaal initially responded by simply accepted the criticism without making much case in his defence.
Boosted by the result, Van Gaal poked fun at the fans for their reaction in midweek. “Against CSKA when you are yelling: ‘Attack, attack, attack!’ and when you are 85 minutes on the attack, then you have to think by yourself, as a fan: ‘Hey, hey, is that all right to yell?’ They want to let them [the players] know that we have to score. Of course, my mother also knows that and my grandmother knows that.”
4. Not this time, Boaz
Boaz Myhill was the hero the last time these sides met as he made a couple of vital saves to keep West Brom’s clean sheet. He memorably saved Robin Van Persie’s penalty late in that encounter.
This time Myhill made some decent saves, including the one for which he needed reflex reactions to keep out Martial’s ferocious shot just before half-time. United similarly had a penalty late in the game but this time Myhill guessed the wrong way as Juan Mata coveted his spot kick to seal United’s win.
5. Lingard’s stock continues to rise
Van Gaal promised to give youngsters coming through the club’s system a chance and the Dutch boss has been keeping his word. In this encounter, Manchester-born Cameron Borthwick-Jackson made his debut by replacing Marcos Rojo at left-back.
Lingard is another one benefitting from Van Gaal’s philosophy. He assisted Rooney’s goal in the 1-0 Champions League win over CSKA Moscow in midweek and the 22-year-old followed that up with his first goal for the club in this game.