West Bromwich Albion 0 - Manchester United 2
Never change a winning team
It probably says more about ManU's current standing than ours that Pulis, albeit an admirer of Mourihno's tactical nous, didn't feel the need to put out a back six to counter his current side, though they were clearly felt to offer an aerial threat, as our manager wasted no time in returning to his "four big lads" backline, although the dropping of Morrison, so as to allow Dawson to put Nyom firmly in his place by reclaiming the right-back spot, would surely have raised a few eyebrows.
Dawson's re-instatement on the right meant that we continued on, from the Swansea game, with the oldest and slowest of our possible central centre-back pairings, McAuley and Olsson, whilst Nyom's move across to left back allowed Brunt to take Chaldi's place out on the right of midfield, with the latter taking on Morrison's central midfield creativity and continuity role.
There were ever-so-slight parallels, with the goal conceded against Mourihno's previous side, in the way we went behind after just five minutes, when a long ball into our left back channel found our left back missing, however, whereas against Chelsea, McAuley would be dragged over to try and contain Costa, on this occasion he'd be in the centre, keeping an eye on Ibrahimovic, as Lingard exploited the space behind Nyom to deliver the quality of cross that had allowed Rondon to bag a hat-trick of headers for us, that offered Ibrahimovic the chance to make a start towards one, against us, alebit from not quite the aerial threat that we'd presumably tried to counter.
Current interpretations, of our manager's "staying in the game" mantra, would suggest that a one-goal defecit at the break is acceptable, and certainly more preferable than risking going two down, and so, although we would achieve our one shot on target for the whole of the game during the remainder of the first half, when Brunt didn't really trouble De Gea from outside the box, both sides would have left the field at half-time happy with their lot, with our manager quoted as giving his players the 'steady as she goes' brief of "let's make sure we stay in the game, we'll grow into it", over the hot teas and oranges.
Unfortunately, the "we'll happily waste posession and let you have the ball, but you'll still have to show us what you can do" approach, merely allowed Ibrahimovic to show everyone what he could do when, after we had coughed up yet another give-away pass, he ended up with the ball at his feet near the right corner of our penalty area, and then skipped betwen two players and so created enough space to fire off a shot, which took the kind of deflection that all shooters in or into, a crowded box, sometimes benefit from, and which sometimes they don't. On this occasion, the Swede's buying of the ticket saw him win the prize, with one of Dawson legs, in amongst the usual crowd of legs, being the one to draw the diverting ticket, after just ten minutes of the second half.
Rather than make a change straight after going 2-0 down, the manager opted for another twenty minutes of "staying in the game" before he retracted the change he'd made from the previous one, by bringing on Morrison for Dawson, however, despite now playing with the same XI that had been able to create three goal-scoring chances, plus a few more besides, in that game, five minutes was enough of it for this one, as he also swapped two of its attacking players, Phillips and a pretty anonymous Chadli, for two others, HRK and Leko, and whilst the latter did at least try and make something happen, and in doing so did bring the crowd to life, his ability to make something happen still needs much more game time to hone than he's likely to see, and so give the crowd something to actually celebrate. Having said that, if the current "vibe" on the BOING list is anything to extrapolate a wider feeling from, then many of that crowd will have gone home happy that we at least "gave it a go" against one of the big clubs, for the last ten minutes of a home game, and with Brunt's 28-th minute effort as the highlight, as goalscoring efforts went, anyway.
This was a game we simply dominated, until the four and a half minute mark that is, when the master plan came awry. Another hopeful long ball down our right flank a la Chelsea, a brilliant cross by Lingard, a little sneaky tug by Zlatan Sonofabitch on Gmac, followed by his clinical header, and we were on the back foot from that point on. Can't fault the effort. They were just too good for us on the day.
Sonofabitch might have been sent off for a cynical charge on Dawson, but to be honest we didn't do enough to deserve anything.
Since I am posting I will have a moan - two goals down after 58 minutes and not threatening the United goal at all. Why wait so long to bring on fresh legs? Leko, who came on around the 80th minute, ran rings round their left back and presented some real problems, but alas, it was too late.
Olsson showed why this is probably his last year in the prem. We really missed Evans - passing out of defence was poor. Yacob was great - hardly put a foot wrong. Must give Leko some more playing time somewhere. Wishes for the transfer window - a pedigree left back, a creative midfielder and a back up striker.
Not too much to say about this one.
We were without Evans which was a big loss - mostly because without him in our back four we really struggle to pass it out from the back and against the best teams in the league that always puts you under pressure. Pulis also made the call bring Dawson back in and drop Morrison from a winning team. I can understand why but I think it didn't work out for us.
I thought we competed quite well, defended quite well mostly, got up and around them in decent positions but I think our biggest problem was that we were probably one player too short of pace.
When we won it back and broke or when we had the ball for longer periods, we didn;'t really have the legs to get up the pitch or in behind them. It was only really Phillips that was capable of it.
I thought Brunt, Fletcher and Yacob each did their jobs well and were pretty good on the ball, but they just don't have the legs to carry it forward 30 yards at pace. And Chadli has immense quality but he's not a but gusting runner.
Morrison's levels had dropped off a bit in the last few games but he does gives us that ability and he does get up in and around Rondon better than anyone else - and Rondon certainly won plenty of first balls in this game.
I think we were also a bit narrow - there were times with Brunt on the right when he drifted too far into the centre when we were crying out for width.
In the end I thought we did OK, the first goal was taken very well even though it exposed Nyom's ball watching better than anyone else has (and for once his pace couldn't recover) and the pace we lacked elsewhere in the back 4. The second was a fluke which came at a really poor time for us.
Had Rondon taken the headed chance before halftime we might have snatched something - and he probably should have scored.
I thought the subs were too little too late and it was only really Leko who improved us by that point - another cameo showing why he has to get more minutes because he went past people for fun when we got it out to him.
We can't really complain about the result, Man United were just about worth their win. Like others on here I'm not sure about our team selections and substitutions. I'm not sure what difference it would have made but with the players available I would have liked to have seen Brunt retained at left back "he provides natural width from there and can supply great crosses,as with the 2 goals last week". I think either Nyom or Dawson at centre back with Gmac would have given us a touch more pace. Olsson has been a great servant to the club but looks out of his depth now especially against the better prem teams. Leko should definitely have been given at least 30mins and I'm not sure Robson Kanu brings anything.
Rant over, at the end of the day Pulis gets paid to make the tough decisions and we have to trust that he'll get it right more often than not. COYB
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