Manchester United dropped more points in the Premier League as we were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw against West Brom. United was on the back foot after two minutes into the game when the Baggies took a shock lead through Mbaye Diagne. We struggled to work our way back into the game but we got there from a beautiful strike by Bruno Fernandes just before half-time.
In the second half, we pushed to get the second goal. United was given a penalty after Harry Maguire was fouled in the box. VAR and then referee Craig Pawson then overturned the decision. We searched for the winner and thought we had nicked all three points at the end. It was Sam Johnstone’s save that kept Harry Maguire’s header out of the net after tipping it onto the post.
We look at five things we learned from the game.
1. United lacked energy
United have been used to going behind in matches away from Old Trafford this season. Every time we had conceded in those games, we come back to life and start to play. However, the shock of conceding an early goal just threw the players. We lacked energy and could not seem to get going at all. When we did attack the West Brom backline, it would often end with a misplaced pass or a heavy touch.
You could see when West Brom had scored, they were sitting back in their own half and soaking up the pressure. They defended in numbers which ultimately frustrated us. It was a moment of brilliance that got us back into the game but in the end, this was the best it got for United.
Our form has been patchy in recent weeks as we had wins, draws, and losses. It is started to become concerning that we have not been able to break down teams and that our own defence has looked vulnerable at times.
2. Conceding An Early Goal Again
It had not been even two minutes into the game when West Brom took a shock lead against us through Mbaye Diagne. Our defence had dropped deep into our own half. We then failed to put any pressure on Connor Gallagher who was allowed to put a cross in. Victor Lindelof was then going for the ball but was muscled out of the way by the West Brom forward.
There were questions asked by all United fans on social media that the goal should not have stood as it was a foul. As Diagne went in to head the ball, he had his hands all over Lindelof’s face. VAR did not intervene and the goal stood. However, the fact is that central defender should have been stronger and got to the ball first. As Gary Neville said on Sky Sports, “Lindelof’s been mauled”.
3. Martial struggled to make an impact
United fans know that Anthony Martial has the talent to be successful at United. However, we have not seen it enough on a consistent basis. With Edinson Cavani coming in, Martial has been move out to the left after failing to cement the lead striker role this season. During the game against West Brom, he rarely offered anything in terms of going forward. He should have been getting on the ball taking on their defence causing them problems with his pace.
Martial was so quiet and being on the left does not seem to be a natural position for him. There has been much debate during his time at the club that no one still knows where we should best play him in the side. When playing on the left, he is not one for getting back and helping out the defence to stop any crosses coming into the box. When Greenwood came on for him, he showed more potential with the ball as he got United forward in their attack.
It is clear that we look better with Cavani being in the lead striker role. I had been talking with a fellow United fan on Twitter about Martial at half time. They made the interesting point that “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard“. There’s no denying that Martial has talent but he has to work harder. Questions will start to be asked what is best to do with Anthony Martial in the short and long term future.
4. Bruno Fernandes is one special player
As half time approached, West Brom looked like they would be heading into the dressing room with a 1-0 lead. Bruno Fernandes who had been on the edge of the game delivered a response. We had hardly created any chances but Luke Shaw whipped a cross into the box in the 44th minute. The ball was behind Fernandes. However, somehow he managed to turn and swivel his body and then hit a volley (off his shin) straight past Sam Johnstone into the West Brom goal.
Bruno Fernandes has been involved in 38 goals during his 38 appearances for the club. Only Andy Cole had achieved a similar feat as he scored 33 goals and had 13 assists in the same amount of time.
That was Bruno’s fourteenth goal of the season and it was just a special goal. It just adds further proof why he has become United’s most important player since he arrived at the club.
5. Being title contenders this season is slowly evaporating
With Manchester City beating Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday evening, they had opened up an 8 point gap and still with a game in hand on us. United needed to win to keep up their chances of being in a title race with our noisy neighbours. Our hopes of winning our 21st league title in 2021 are now evaporating.
During our 3-3 draw against Everton, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær had said we were not title contenders. However, after reaching the top of the league back in January, United fans had started to believe we could possibly mount a challenge. But after the 1-1 draw against West Brom, it has handed Manchester City the initiative and they could go 10 points clear if they win their game in hand.