Premier League 17/18 Week 34: Manchester United vs West Bromwich Albion – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
United look to hold up City’s title party yet again when they take on the bouncing Baggies at Old Trafford
16:00 BST, Sunday 15th April, Old Trafford (Manchester, England) Sky Sports
In search of a 6th successive league win, José Mourinho’s team have come into fine form of late. With 3 of these 5 wins coming against sides settled in the league’s top-five positions, they can’t be accused of achieving this the easy way. After restoring a little more credibility to their season last weekend, Manchester United now take on a team looking to do exactly that as they sit 50 points behind their hosts in the league.
Darren Moore may not yet be a household name but he is still to be beaten in his fledgling managerial career. In guiding West Brom to a draw in his first-ever game in charge last weekend, he snapped the Baggies out of their 9 match losing streak. While a journey to the theatre of dreams may appear a daunting prospect, West Brom have taken two wins (L1, D1) from their last four appearances on Old Trafford soil and have little left to lose heading into this match.
Last Time Out
Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United (Premier League)
The 176th Manchester derby proved the archetypical game of two halves as Mourinho’s side recovered to win after a poor first half. With City able to clinch the league title in front of their rivals, they began the match in electrifying fashion. Two goals in a five minute period midway through the opening half appeared to leave little doubt over the direction of the result but some untidy finishing by City inadvertently left the door ajar.
United roared back into the second half, buoyed by a recharged Paul Pogba. The midfielder grabbed two goals in only 3 minutes just after the interval to more than make up for a subdued first half. With the momentum of the match firmly behind them, United pressed for a winner which Chris Smalling found with 20 minutes to spare. They then had David de Gea to thank for maintaining their lead when he saved from Sergio Agüero. The Argentine striker was also unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty after a clumsy challenge from Ashley Young, however, United held on to seal a remarkable victory which had seemed far from their grasp only 45 minutes earlier.
West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Swansea City (Premier League)
The Baggies could not claim the win their performance deserved after they outplayed the Swans for much of this match. There was an increased confidence in West Brom’s play compared to the fare they produced under the latter stages of Alan Pardew’s reign, arguably brought about by a return to basics approach which included a 4-4-2 formation.
West Brom were untroubled in defence throughout the afternoon nullifying the Swansea attack through improved organisation. While they still lacked creativity in their side, Jay Rodriguez was a lively presence for them up front and the makeshift striker’s endeavours were rewarded early in the second half with the game’s opening goal.
With the lead established, Swansea were forced to scrap their defence-first policy and seek an equaliser, however, West Brom could not take advantage of the extra space their forwards were afforded. Tammy Abraham found a way of scoring with 15 minutes remaining and although it gave the visitors an undeserved draw, West Brom could not make their superiority count when they were on top.
Manchester United Lineup
Sergio Romero is suffering from a knock but the only problem Mourinho faces ahead of Sunday’s encounter with bottom-placed West Brom. With a relatively weaker opponent, Mourinho could use the opportunity to field a stronger attacking line-up this weekend than he’s selected in the past.
West Bromwich Albion Lineup
Jonny Evans (knee) James Morrison (Achilles) and Gareth Barry (knee) are all unavailable while Nacer Chadli (fitness) and Sam Field (knock) are also expected to miss out for the Baggies. After reverting West Brom to a 4-4-2 formation last weekend and claiming their first point in 9 matches, Moore could opt to stick with the same starting eleven for this game.
Key Battle: Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United) vs Craig Dawson (West Bromwich Albion)
Taking on his former club with 100 league goals already to his name, Lukaku is a striker in form despite a lack of media attention. With the scoring exploits of Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah hogging the headlines, it’s easy to overlook the 26 goals Lukaku’s claimed this season. As a player who has added much more to his game than when he was wearing a West Brom shirt, he will be a problem the Baggies need to solve if they’re to avoid defeat.
With Jonny Evans set to remain sidelined again this weekend, Dawson is likely to be drafted into the centre of defence along with Ahmed Hegazi. Having been with the Baggies for almost 8 years now, the 27-year-old defender has become a reliable and consistent defender, if not a headline maker. Usually played as a full-back, Dawson will need to work with Hegazi to handle the physical power and movement of Lukaku during this match.
Turning the tables
Behind United’s second-half turnaround over City last weekend was a burning desire not to let their Manchester rivals humiliate them. Having heard that their sky blue counterparts had already made restaurant reservations for later that night to celebrate the title, United’s enraged players reportedly redoubled their efforts.
Whether or not these rumours are true, it’s comforting to know pride can be used as a key motivator in the game. With players becoming increasingly inspired by financial rewards over most other gains, a pride-based reaction suggests the players still care about more than just their bank balance on a Saturday evening.
Tables being turned
West Brom have lost an incredible 26 points from winning positions so far this season, a total which is 5 more than they have accumulated over their 33 league fixtures so far. As a team which have long been renowned in the top-flight for their defensive qualities, this new fragility can be seen as the main reason behind their recent downfall.
While they have scored three times as many goals during the opening 15 minutes of a match (6:2) compared to goals conceded, the final quarter of an hour has proven exactly the opposite (5:15). With 27 goals scored against them during the final half hour of this season’s league matches, this accounts for more than half of the total goals they’ve conceded.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 West Bromwich Albion
While West Brom fans got some respite from their problems last weekend, a trip to Old Trafford could well re-open their wounds on Sunday. United will be keen to take a win which will delay City’s title celebrations by at least another week and if West Brom look to play expansive football, they could find themselves quickly taken apart by the Red Devils.