57 min West Brom are having more of the ball now. Furlong beats Martial with ease and puts in a good deep cross that is headed away by Wan-Bissaka.
54 min Now West Brom do cross the halfway line, and create a half chance in the process. Maitland-Niles, with too much time on the ball, threads a nice pass through to Pereira on the left side of the area. He gets the ball out of his feet and drags a low shot wide of the far post.
53 min Furlong gets a vital headed touch to steer a cross away from the prowling Cavani. West Brom have barely crossed the halfway line since the interval.
50 min “Well Rob, you are correct about the lack of consensus on what a foul is,” says Mary Waltz. “It’s good that we have VAR to solve that problem, right?”
49 min McTominay takes Wan-Bissaka’s pass beautifully in his stride and hits a stinging shot that is blocked by Bartley. Moments later, Rashford whips a terrific ball that flashes right across the face of goal.
49 min United have made a very fast start to the second half, playing with much greater urgency than they did before the break.
47 min Fernandes’s cross is chested behind by Bartley. That moves started with a spectacular crossfield pass from Maguire to Rashford. Shaw will take the corner…
46 min Peep peep! Man Utd begin the second half. West Brom have made a half-time change, with Darnell Furlong replacing the injured Lee Peltier.
“I have no wish to go back to the days where players slashed and hacked each other, often to slop more skilled players,” says Mary Waltz. “But it is still a contact sport and Lindelof was simply outworked on that first goal.”
I’ve been watching football for over 30 years and I can’t remember a time when there was less consensus over refereeing decisions (or, for that matter, just about anything).
Replays show that Diagne had his hand in Lindelof’s face just before he scored the goal, so it probably was a foul. But was it a clear and obvious error? I haven’t a clue anymore.
That was a half of few chances, yet it was still pretty compelling. Mbaye Diagne bullied Victor Lindelof to give West Brom a very early lead, and United were still struggling to get going when Bruno Fernandes volleyed them level just before the break.
45+2 min West Brom win three corners in quick succession. The last one is headed away by McTominay and United set off on a very dangerous counter-attack, four on three… until the referee blows the half-time whistle. United are fuming, though the added time has been played.
Maguire again gave United a bit of impetus with a surge through the inside-left channel. He slightly overhit his pass to Shaw, who thus had no option but to stand up a first-time cross. Fernandes, unmarked near the penalty spot, hooked an acrobatic left-footed volley into the top of the net and roared with a kind of angry delight. He may have shinned it, on reflection, but either way it flew past Johnstone.
GOAL! West Brom 1-1 Man Utd (Fernandes 44)
Bruno Fernandes has been rubbish all half – and now he’s scored a beauty!
43 min Maguire bursts into the area again and plays a nice little pass to Martial, whose short cross is poked away at the near post. Fernandes was running with Yokuslu when he went over, though there didn’t seem to be much in it.
42 min Shaw crosses into the area, where Fernandes goes down off the ball. Nothing is given on the field, or in Stockley Park. We haven’t seen a replay so I’m not sure what happened.
38 min Rashford quickens things up with a run and pass to Cavani on the right. His very deep cross almost falls for Martial, but Snodgrass pushes the ball behind for a corner. Bartley was lucky not to be booked for an off-the-ball foul on Rashford after he played the ball to Cavani.
36 min Cavani, on the left wing, spots McTominay in loads of space on the far side of the penalty area – but then he overhits a fairly routine cross. That was a chance.
33 min Maguire surges 40 yards into the West Brom area, where the diligent Diagne slides in to concede a corner. Shaw’s outswinger is cleared.
31 min West Brom are working so hard defensively, and Sam Allardyce will be thrilled with how the match has gone so far. There have been a few signs of United stirring in the last 5-10 minutes, but West Brom deserve to be ahead.
27 min: Good save from de Gea! Maitland-Niles moseys down the left, turns and plays thbe ball back to Townsend. He swings a cross into the middle, where Snodgrass gets in front of Shaw near the penalty spot and loops a header towards goal. The leaping De Gea arches his back to tip it over the bar.
26 min United are starting to wake up. Rashford’s twinkle toes take him past a couple of defenders on the right side of the box, but then he plays a poor pass to the heavily marked Fernandes.
24 min Lindelof fouls Diagne on the left wing, which gives West Brom another chance to dump a free-kick into the area. Pereira’s delivery is decent, curling towards the penalty spot, and Diagne steers a header well wide.
23 min A fine deep cross from Rashford on the right is thighed just past the post by Peltier, under pressure from Martial. The referee gives a goalkick.
21 min West Brom have been very comfortable defensively. There’s a break in play while Peltier receives treatment to his left ankle.
19 min A couple of you have suggested Lindelof was fouled for the goal. I only really had eyes for Diagne, and it looked like a classic case of a striker outmuscling a defender, but I’ll keep an eye out for any more replays.
17 min West Brom are picking their moments to go forward. When they do commit they are very aggressive, trying to bully United physically. It worked perfectly for the goal.
15 min Fred plays a long pass straight out of play. United are not yet at the races.
14 min “The lack of crowds must be having a big effect on goalkeepers,” says Luke Jones. “They spend a large amount of time standing still with nothing to do, and then have to make quick decisions and movements. It must be hard to keep the level of focus and intensity high when it’s so quiet.”
Interesting point; I’d not thought of that.
13 min Yokuslu is fouled just past the halfway line, which allows West Brom to send the big men forward. Pereira’s free-kick is a poor one that goes straight out for a throw-in.
11 min United are having loads of the ball, which I suspect would have been the case even without an early goal for West Brom, but they haven’t yet found their passing rhythm.
9 min United have won seven games away from home this season after going behind. It’s not, however, the brightest strategy for winning football matches.
7 min Shaw plays a one-two with Martial and fires a low cross that is missed by Cavani at the near post. Then Fred hits a half-volley from 20 yards that is comfortably saved to his left by Johnstone.
6 min Fernandes’ clever flick releases Rashford, though everybody knows he’s offside and they all go through the motions until the attack breaks down and the flag goes up.
5 min “Was thinking apropos of Alisson that it’s becoming increasingly difficult (between the playing schedules and the insanity of being constantly plugged into social media) for top keepers to maintain that which gives them the edge: focus, calm, stability, all the mental stuff without which even the most gifted ones amount to no more than a Víctor Valdés,” says Phil Podolsky. “Haven’t seen enough of DGG to form an opinion, but a keeper declining at 27 is pretty strange, even taking into account how precociously early he peaked.”
4 min Gary Neville is fuming on Sky Sports, pointing out that Lindelof and Maguire were far too slow to get out when the ball was played back for Gallagher to cross first time. It meant that Diagne was only six yards out when he beasted Lindelof and headed towards goal.
That was such a simple goal. Gallagher, in the inside-right channel, curled a terrific dipping cross towards the far post, where Diagne muscled Lindelof aside and steered a diving header past de Gea from six yards. That’s an excellent goal from West Brom’s point of view, though Lindelof and maybe de Gea could have been done better.
The players emerge on a grim afternoon at the Hawthorns. It’s wet and windy, perfect weather for Robert Snodgrass to swing a few corners under the crossbar.
Full time: Southampton 1-2 Wolves That’s a big win for Wolves, though Southampton will feel they were robbed by VAR.
“Maguire and Lindelof have been really solid and get a ridiculous amount of over-the-top criticism,” says Francis Mead. “Maguire has generally been superb recently.”
I agree that Maguire has been very good for the last 2-3 months, and that Lindelof has an unfair reputation (though he doesn’t help himself at times). I’m still not sure they’re a title-winning partnership, mind, and United are still prone to conceding Andrex-soft goals.
“While I agree that de Gea was a much better keeper previously than he appears to be now,” says Patrick Cullen, “I always felt that the things he was good at were a way of making up for the things he was so bad at – that the need to make those unbelievable reflex saves came about from a basic inability to command his area and impose himself on the opposition’s attackers, and just as importantly, his own defenders. Yes, without doubt, United could improve on their central defensive partnership, but without a dominant goalkeeper behind them to organise things, there’s a limit to what even the best defenders in the world can achieve.”
That’s fair, though I do think he has become even less dominant in the last few years. I don’t think hed have conceded that Calvert-Lewin goal, for example, in 2017.
“It is all good saying DDG has declined (and he surely has),” says Kelechi Dennar. “However, we also need to ask whether he has declined to a level where Henderson is now better? He is nowhere near that 2018 level but I think he is still at a high level. I suspect this will be DDG’s last season at United but I am not sure Henderson has proven to be a better option by his fee performances so far. Next season, all bets are off.”
Agreed. I’m not sure about Henderson yet, though he is more dominant and he wouldn’t have conceded that Everton equaliser last week. He is also on the way up. If United do try to sign a new keeper in the summer, I’d go for Martinez. Villa won’t want to sell but anything’s possible in modern football.
A debatable Ruben Neves penalty has brought Wolves level at Southampton. It’s 1-1 with half an hour remaining.
“Good afternoon Rob,” says Jon Collins. “Looking at that Manchester United teamsheet, the weakest point is now surely David de Gea. It’s sad to see a player who single-handedly made them competitive for years become a liability, but how much longer do you think Solskjaer will stick with him?”
I think it’s already been too long, and he certainly hasn’t consulted his What Would Fergie Do book. One of the saddest things about all this is that a lot of people have forgotten how astoundingly good de Gea was from 2012-18. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a keeper make so many miraculous reflex saves. But he’s been struggling for nearly three years now, so it’s quite a leap of faith to think it’s ever coming back.
It’s already been a bad-news day for United, who will now be stuck with the Maguire/Lindelof partnership until the end of days.
West Brom (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Peltier, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend; Yokuslu; Snodgrass, Gallagher, Maitland-Niles, Pereira; Diagne.
Substitutes: Button, Furlong, O’Shea, Livermore, Phillips, Sawyers, Robson-Kanu, Robinson, Grant.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1) de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Rashford, Fernandes, Martial; Cavani.
Substitutes: Henderson, Bailly, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe, James, Matic, van de Beek, Greenwood.
Referee Craig Pawson.
Hello. The predictability of modern football means that, in most Premier League seasons, the expectations and ambition of a particular team stay roughly the same from autumn to spring: win the title, finish top four, avoid relegation, etc etc. But in 2020-21, most clubs have had to regularly revise their hopes and dreams.
Take Manchester United. In September, their realistic ambition was to finish third for the second season in a row, while getting closer to the points tally of Liverpool and Manchester City. After a desperate start to the season, a top-four place became a reasonable aim. Then, for a few giddy weeks after Christmas, they were outsiders for the title. Now, with Manchester City suddenly omnipotent, United’s sights are fixed on finishing second and continuing a year-on-year improvement under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
A draw today would lift them back above Leicester and into second, though they will hope to beat a West Brom side that have been repeatedly tonked at the Hawthorns since Sam Allardyce took over. But United have an occasional propensity for doziness against the weaker teams, so don’t rule out a shock.
West Brom need the greatest of escapes if they are to avoid relegation. At the start they were aiming for 17th place and another season in the Premier League. Now that they are 13 points off safety, they’ll probably be happy to avoid finishing bottom.
Kick off 2pm.