West Bromwich Albion put in a gutsy performance at The Hawthorns to hold Manchester United to a 1-1 draw, although it could have been even better for the Baggies.
Following criticism for the omission of Matheus Pereira from the starting line-up for the 2-0 defeat away at Tottenham, Sam Allardyce opted to bring the Brazilian playmaker back into the team in place of Karlan Grant. Okay Yokuşlu also made his full Albion debut, replacing Romaine Sawyers.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær made five changes from Tuesday’s FA Cup win over West Ham with David De Gea, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani all returning. Solskjær was also unable to call upon midfield star Paul Pogba, who suffered a thigh injury in the 3-3 draw against Everton.
In the second minute, Albion got off to the best possible start with Conor Gallagher’s cross met by Mbaye Diagne, who towered over Victor Lindelof to score his first goal in English football.Embed from Getty Images
As expected, Allardyce’s men then dropped off the ball and allowed United to control possession with the Red Devils failing to create many meaningful opportunities, whilst the hosts went close through Robert Snodgrass’ header.
Snodgrass and Diagne both tracked back to make vital interceptions as the Baggies looked to hold out until half time, but then the blow arrived.
Shaw received the ball out wide from Maguire with his cross finding the left boot of Fernandes who volleyed impressively past former United ‘keeper Sam Johnstone.Embed from Getty Images
With the teams going into half-time evenly matched, many would have expected United to push on and win the game in the second half. But Albion stood strong.
Lee Peltier was forced off through injury with the full-back replaced by Darnell Furlong.
United continued to struggle to break down the Albion rearguard bar a Fernandes deflected effort which forced Johnstone into a save.
But in the sixty-second minute Albion suffered an almighty scare, with referee Craig Pawson awarding United a penalty after Maguire went down following a tangle of legs with Semi Ajayi.
Pawson then overturned his decision following a pitch-side monitor check with little contact appearing to be made with Maguire who also seemed to be in an offside position when the ball was played.
Yokuşlu’s impressive performance came to an end when he was replaced by Jake Livermore, with the Turkish international breaking up play effectively and looking tidy in possession. Just what Albion have lacked this season.Embed from Getty Images
As the clock ticked on, Albion became more of a threat. Ainsley Maitland-Niles wasted a great opportunity to square the ball to Diagne for a clear shot on goal, whilst the Senegalese international placed a one-on-one effort straight at De Gea after robbing Maguire of the ball.
Despite constant United pressure, it was Albion who should have won the game with Diagne once more wasting a great opportunity from close range after getting on the end of a Darnell Furlong cross.
United almost nicked it in the dying seconds with Maguire’s powerful header being brilliantly tipped onto the post by Johnstone who once more highlighted his ability.
With Albion and United sharing the spoils, a point is far from ideal for either side. Although, Allardyce’s men can take confidence into their next four fixtures against lower placed clubs, having restricted the Premier League’s top scorers to one solitary goal.
Player Ratings: Johnstone (8); Peltier (6), Ajayi (6), Bartley (7), Townsend (7); Snodgrass (6), Yokuşlu (8), Gallagher (7) Maitland-Niles (6) Pereira (6); Diagne (7). Subs: Furlong (7), Livermore (5), Phillips (N/A)
West Brom: Johnstone; Peltier (Furlong 45′), Ajayi, Bartley (C), Townsend; Snodgrass (Phillips 87′), Maitland-Niles, Yokuşlu (Livermore 67′), Gallagher, Pereira; Diagne.
Unused Subs: Button, O’Shea, Sawyers, Grant, Robinson, Robson-Kanu.
Booked: Gallagher (37′), Bartley (61′), Maitland-Niles (79′), Snodgrass (85′), Diagne (89′)
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred (Van De Beek 79′); Rashford, Fernandes, Martial (Greenwood 66′); Cavani.
Unused Subs: Henderson, Bailly, Tuanzebe, Williams, Telles, Matić, James.
Referee: Craig Pawson