The off-season trundled along depressingly slowly this summer but the wait is over now that the Premier League will kick-off this weekend, with United playing away to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday afternoon. If the football we showed against Manchester City is anything to go by, then we could be in for a real treat on Sunday but considering West Bromwich Albion were the only team to take points away from us at Old Trafford last season, albeit partly because of quite possibly the only major mistake Van Der Sar made in his trophy season, the game should provide a tough opening fixture for United.
If there is one thing that we all hope gets rectified from last season, it is our dismal away form. Having only won 5 games on the road last season, United depended on their unblemished home form as their driving force toward the record 19th title but it would be foolish to consider a repeat of that incredible home form inevitable. Last season, West Bromwich Albion had the 12th best home record in the league having won only 8 games whilst both scoring and conceding a total of 30 goals throughout the season. This bodes well for United who, despite only winning 5 games, managed to notch 29 goals along the way which was the 3rd highest in the league behind Arsenal and Chelsea. If statistics are anything to go by, then United should be hot favourites; we have never lost to West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League and have a 100% winning record at the Hawthorns.
Going into the game, United look like an indomitable force; a flawless pre-season tour of America, followed by a trademark nerve-tingling comeback against Manchester City in the Community Shield has left United on high spirits going into this game. It wasn’t particularly the result against City which impressed me most but more the manner and style in which we played it; as we came out in the second half, the average age of our team was just 22 but the football we played was so elegantly controlled that we made it look easy and Nani’s equaliser was the best goal I have seen United score in a long time. Nani hailed the game as his best performance ever and after train-wrecking City with his brace, he looks to have hit peak form just at the right time. Defenders beware. In his press conference today, SAF shed a little bit of light as to who will feature in the line-up on Sunday:
“I think picking my team is made easier by the second-half performance last week in some ways but I still have to respect the experience of the ones who came off at half-time.”
I believe that SAF will play it safe and start out with Carrick and Anderson in the middle but we should see a cameo performance from Tom Cleverley, considering how well he played in the second half against City. SAF has said that Evra will have a late fitness test tomorrow, Hernandez still remains out for 10 days and Valencia and Fletcher will play with the reserves until their full match fitness is regained. The cracking performances of Jones and Smalling in the Community Shield might see them get a start as well and it would be justly deserved. As far as West Bromwich Albion are concerned, their top man Odemwingie will be the main threat to our defence but considering it is the start of a new season, your guess is as good as mine because we all know that the Premier League serves up many a surprise every weekend, such is the unpredictability of it.
All in all, the game should be a stern test to the mentality of our players and considering the difficult start to the campaign United have this year we will hope that after Mike Jones blows the final whistle, United will have won all 3 points. For me, I think our form has been consistently improving throughout the pre-season and the Community Shield saw a new high, so I can’t see us dropping points in this match. The trio of Rooney, Nani and Young seem to be learning very quickly how to play alongside each other and my prediction for the game is 3-1 to United, with all 3 notching a goal along the way. Think it might be a different result? Leave your predictions in the comments!