Reeling from their disastrous 3-2 home defeat to Athletic Bilbao on Thursday night, United looked to get back to winning ways with the visit of West Bromwich Albion to Old Trafford, and continue their assault on the Premier League title. With the baggies in good form however, on the back of 3 successive wins, United would have to be back to their best in order to secure 3 precious points, and keep the pressure on Manchester City who travelled to Swansea. Fergie opted for 4 changes from the side who succumbed to Athletic, as Ferdinand, Scholes, Welbeck and Carrick all returned to bolster the side.
Boyed by their recent form, the visitors began brightly and nearly took a surprise early lead, as Keith Andrews broke into the box, latching onto Liam Ridgewell’s cross and narrowly sliding his shot wide. Andrews again threatened minutes later, this time from a free kick from 20 yards, which forced keeper David De Gea into a smart save low down, as United struggled to assert themselves onto the contest. Through mainly the good work of Ashley Young, the early pressure subsided, and the England winger continued his good form by testing former United keeper Ben Foster with a stinging drive as United settled into their rhythm. Young’s corner was narrowly headed wide by Danny Welbeck, as the pressure mounted, and United found their groove in the closing stages of the first half. Rooney squandered the clearest opening of the half, failing to steer Young’s cross in at the back post whilst stretching, but he was not to be denied for long, as he latched onto Hernandez’s shot come cross and with the deftest of touches put United into the lead at half time.
United have often been guilty of complacency from leading positions this season, but appeared keen to increase the deficit in the second half, as the reds displayed some of their best attacking football of the season. West Brom were far from spectators however, and perhaps should have had a penalty on the hour mark, as Patrice Evra’s stray leg caught Peter Odemwingie in the box, with perhaps only the theatrical nature of his tumble convincing the ref to wave away his protests. Chances for United were regularly forthcoming, with firstly Rooney denied a spectacular goal by Ben Foster, and other wasteful misses courtesy of Danny Welbeck, who inexplicably missed an open goal after rounding Foster, and Javier Hernandez whose shot struck the inside of the post keeping the Old Trafford crowd on edge. Jonas Olsson however, made a difficult task nearly impossible for the visitors, as he was given his marching orders for a late lunge on Hernandez, earning the defender his 2nd yellow card of the afternoon. And the final nail in the coffin was soon to follow, as Rooney sent the superb Young clear down the left, who skipped past Andrews, who could only drag down the United winger handing Rooney the chance to double his tally from the spot. He duly obliged, and sent United eyes to south Wales, where news filtered through that Manchester City had succumbed to defeat to Swansea, sending the reds back to the top of the table with just 10 games to play in an afternoon which could shape who lifts the title in May.
DD – 7 Spectator for most parts, but key saves in first half.
Jones – 6 Looked shaky to begin with, settled into game.
Ferdinand – 7 Imperious.
Evans – 7 Strong in the tackle and aerially.
Evra – 6 Nearly cost United with tackle on Odemwingie, attacking wise superb.
Welbeck – 7 Drifted off the right flank to great effect.
Scholes – 7 Dominated the midfield, stunning pass for first goal.
Carrick – 7 Shielded back four with aplomb.
Young – 8 MOTM Terrorised Tamas all afternoon.
Rooney – 8 Clinical.
Hernandez – 7 Intelligent movement and good assist for opener.
Pogba – 6 Hope to see more of him in a red shirt.
Cleverley – 6 Eased back into match fitness.