WBA Odds-on to Struggle
Three out of West Brom’s five league wins all season came during a month-long run starting with a win away at Leicester in November. When you look back at those fixtures, all of them were winnable for a mid-table side.
The Baggies put in a valiant effort in their defeat against Chelsea last weekend. But you can bet that as long as Pulis opts to play so negatively against the big boys, West Brom will continue to be turned over in the tougher fixtures.
That upturn in fortunes has also coincided with Chris Brunt’s return from injury. For a side that looks to maximise set pieces the Northern Ireland midfielder’s left foot was sorely missed.
In one of West Brom’s rare attacks against Chelsea Brunt curled a long range shot agonisingly past the post. He could be a candidate to play behind Rondon instead of James Morrison who has also been up and down because of injury.
That would free up a spot in midfield for Nacer Chadli. It’s absurd that the Belgian winger has been left out of the side recently.
He’s been fit nearly a month, and along with Matt Phillips and Rondon could turn West Brom’s attack into something to be feared.
As this is a Pulis team, the defence is as strong as ever but with a few tweaks to their attack West Brom could have Europa League ambitions.
Steady United Progress
For weeks the Red Devils were playing well but not really getting their rewards. Whether it was bad luck or bad finishing, a few of their recent draws could have been wins.
And you now have to go back nearly two months to that thrashing against a fearsome Chelsea side for their last Premier League defeat. It just doesn’t make sense to bet on this United team to lose right now.
We were expecting more from Spurs on their trip to Old Trafford last weekend. But Manchester United were superb, and almost constantly in control of the match. Paul Pogba deserves a share of the credit for that.
If Pogba hasn’t set the league alight as many were expecting, he remains an influential figure in almost every match. Yes, £90 million was a bit of a gamble, but it’s hard to deny that the marketable French star has been the best player at United this season.
He does great work when funnelling back, but shows up in dangerous positions going forward too. It all sounds a bit like Frank Lampard, and the comparison aren’t far off, even if Pogba is more electric with the ball at his feet.
Man United have gone into most fixtures as clear favourites ever since Mourinho finally fixed that midfield. Quite simply, Marouane Fellaini has no place starting for this team.
Provided Carrick is fit he should be starting most matches just behind Herrera and Pogba. The Englishman has an unusual degree of calmness in possession, which helps get the ball to his partners in parts of the pitch where they can work their magic.
Time for Mata
You get the sense that Mourinho is always on the lookout for a reason to drop Juan Mata. But fate seems to have a way of putting the talented creator back in contention.
This time it’s the injury to Mkhitaryan, just as the Armenian was starting to shine. Mata looks like the obvious replacement, even if he doesn’t have the same dynamism.
Either way, the injury shouldn’t affect United too much, as Mata will be entering a team that finally looks to have settled.
West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester United Prediction
Tony Pulis has the manpower to inflict damage on any team. But despite having a great ensemble of attacking players you know that he will stick with what he knows by defending doggedly and looking to eke out a win with a set piece.
For their part, Manchester United are clicking into gear. If the Red Devils are invited to attack they will create chances. On the evidence of the last few weeks, the question is whether they will take them. We expect they will, and are backing Mourinho’s team to grind out a 0-1 win.