Manchester United fought off a late scare to secure three points against West Brom on Sunday.
The visitors took a two-goal lead in the first half, thanks to goals from Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard. It looked to be plain sailing from there, but Alan Pardew made a couple of chances, including bringing on Chris Brunt and it increased the attacking threat of the home team.
A scramble in the penalty area resulted in Gareth Barry getting his team back into the game and the Baggies pressed for an equaliser. Ultimately they came up short, but the manner of the second half performance will improve the mood at the Hawthorns.
Here are three talking points from the match…
Jesse Lingard is establishing himself as a first-team regular
At the beginning of the season, Jesse Lingard was seen as a good squad player that could come into the team and contribute important goals. Few Manchester United supporters would have seen the attacking midfielder as a regular starter, but his performances during the last few weeks may have changed that point of view. He scored the second goal via a deflection and caused problems with his movement all afternoon.
The England international has now contributed four goals and one assist in his last five Premier League starts. He was a lot more assured in possession than usual and his confidence seems to be growing every week. Lingard finished the match with a pass success rate of 91%, including one key pass.
In the free role, he has the license to roam and his intelligent movement opens up space for other attacking players in the team. It remains to be seen if he can maintain this form over a sustained period of time, but this was another encouraging performance.
There are shoots of recovery at West Brom
Rome wasn’t built in a day and it was always likely to be a slow process for Alan Pardew to change the style of play at West Brom. Tony Pulis had been at the club for a long time and his tactics were ingrained in the playing squad. Although the new manager isn’t known for attractive football, he does like his teams to play with attacking intent. That can’t be said of the man that he replaced at the Hawthorns.
The decision to start Oliver Burke was a positive one and the former RB Leipzig winger raised excitement levels with a couple of positive runs. Although his end product wasn’t there, it provided the supporters with excitement. During the match, the home side had 12 shots to Manchester United’s eight and they weren’t afraid to commit men forward, especially in the second half. They may have lost, but there were reasons for the Baggies’ supporters to be optimistic about the future.
Antonio Valencia’s absence could spell problems
Manchester United looked a lot more open after the injury to Antonio Valencia and it would be a blow if he was missing for a long period of time as the club don’t have a natural replacement. It remains to be seen how many matches he will miss, but if he has suffered a hamstring injury, he would not be likely to return until 2018.
After Valencia went off, Jose Mourinho decided to move Ashley Young to right back and brought on Marcos Rojo at left back. Although the former has been very good during recent weeks, he isn’t as comfortable on the right-hand side of the pitch and he will be targeted. Chris Brunt had a lot of joy after coming on and the end of the match underlined the importance of Valencia. Given the right back is now 32, it is time for the club to consider replacing him as the lack of other options is a worry.