By John Ryan
- Ander Herrera and Ibrahimović serve last game of domestic suspensions
- Jones, Smalling and Pogba expected to miss out with injury
The International football break is over and most club fans will be relishing the prospect of club action returning this weekend.
Jose Mourinho’s men take on a West Brom side perched in a lofty eighth’ position. West Brom returned to the top flight in 2010 and employed the services of Tony Pulis just over two years ago.
If they can end the season in the top half it will be seen as a huge improvement on last season’s fourteenth placed finish.
Pulis has his fingerprints all over the club and with astute signings such as ex United players Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans, he has built a formidable squad to match his notable work ethic.
West Brom’s home form is solid but only fourteen of their forty three points to date have been on the road which may seem Old Trafford look a daunting prospect.
Mourinho Has Adapted His Managerial Philosophy!
Mourinho is clearly adapting his Managerial philosophy to suit Manchester United. On the road United play more akin to Mourinho’s Chelsea with pragmatic approach.
United have conceded just thirteen goals in fourteen away games. At Old Trafford however the team play a more expansive game than what we saw previously from sides Mourinho has managed but have been hampered by poor finishing.
Paul Pogba alone has been denied fifteen Premiership assists due to the wayward boots of those on the end of his passes.
The home points total to date ranks on a par with what David Moyes and Luis Van Gaal delivered, yet clearly the football is better. Against Burney, United set a Premier League record for the number of chances created, yet still dropped two points.
United Missing Key Players
Leaving aside Zlatan Ibrahimović both clubs can boast just one player who has made it to double figures in the goals tally this season, Juan Mata is that man for United.
Mourinho faces problems ahead of this game with Zlatan and Herrera serving bans. Jones, Smalling, Pogba and Fellaini all doubtful due to injury.
United should still be able to field a reasonably strong side but without the Swedish goal machine those who do take to the field need to put the ball in the net.
In contrast to Mourinho’s woes, Pulis’ main injury concerns Gareth McAuley and James Morrison have reported fit and West Brom should be able to field their strongest possible line up on Saturday.
Strong Links Between The Two Clubs
West Brom have won two of their last four Premier League visits to Old Trafford albeit neither of those wins were during Mourinho’s reign.
Those of us old enough to remember will recall that amazing game from 1978 when future Manchester United Manager Ron Atkinson brought his young side to Old Trafford and emerged victorious in a 5-3 classic.
In the West Brom side that day was a United star in the making, Bryan Robson. It is unlikely that Saturday’s game will see our current Manager looking to recruit members of Pulis’ squad, however a stern test can be expected.
United Will Have To Overcome Suspensions And Injuries
Given the suspensions and injuries United face and how Pulis teams use set pieces to great effect there is potential for this one ending in another draw.
The big advantage United have going into this game is their goal scoring record, which at Old Trafford is more than three times what West Brom have scored away from the Hawthorns.
Worryingly United have conceded twenty two goals at Old Trafford in this season’s Premier League. Can Pulis men take advantage of this leaky form?
West Brom will make this one a tough encounter and Pulis’ sides always play to their strengths.
With Antonio Valencia in sparkling form at full back for the home side and the prospect of seeing Rashford in a striker’s role, I expect United to come out on top on a 2-1 score line.