Match Preview: West Brom vs Manchester United – Time to buck up

by Tom Parker

After a ten day break, Manchester United are back in Premier League action this weekend with a trip to West Brom.

Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-0 in the last Premier League fixture but that result proved to be yet another exception to the rule as United followed that comfortable victory with their worst performance of the season against a distinctly average Olympiacos in Greece, in a match which was as bad as we’ve seen so far under David Moyes.

Both United and West Brom have had below par seasons – United currently languish in 7th place and well away from Champions League qualification while West Brom are perched just a point above the drop zone in 17th place.

The Baggies were the surprise package in the Premier League last season and looked a competent outfit under Steve Clarke. They even recorded a shock 2-1 win at Old Trafford in September but just two wins from their next 22 league games has left the West Midlands outfit perilously close to the drop.

Pepe Mel is without a win in six league games since he replaced Clarke and is second favourite with most bookmakers to be the next Premier League boss to be sacked. His job, like Moyes’, is likely to come under increasing scrutiny between now and the end of the season.

Jonny Evans’ absence for a further three weeks is a big blow for United but Phil Jones has returned to training to give the defence a welcome boost. Javier Hernandez will miss the game after he sustained a knee injury with Mexico but Juan Mata, Adnan Januzaj and Marouane Fellaini are all likely to come back into the side after missing the Olympiacos game.

West Brom will be without full-back Billy Jones and Nicholas Anelka begins his first game of a suspension for a quenelle gesture but his presence is unlikely to be missed as he has scored just twice in the league. Claudio Yacob and Stephane Sessegnon could shrug off muscle injuries in time for the fixture.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game as United boss came against Saturday’s opponents and the crazy 5-5 draw seen that day is unlikely to be repeated in what should be a close match with plenty at stake for both sides.

United are unbeaten at the Hawthornes since 1984 and West Brom’s shock win against the Reds in September was a first in eleven attempts in the Premier League. They have also won the fewest games in the league out of any team this season with just four victories recorded – all of which point towards a comfortable West Brom victory tomorrow.

Moyes’ side have taken clean sheets in back-to-back league games for the first time this season and Robin van Persie has scored four goals in his last five Premier League games, despite looking far from his best.

Both sides have been poor this season with United well away from their vintage best but they should have enough to overcome an out of sorts West Brom.

Prediction: West Brom 0-1 Manchester United

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