Friday, 1 May 2015
After enduring yet another insipid display on the road at Everton last week, surely United will rediscover themselves in Saturday's teat-time fixture against West Brom. Ahead of the penultimate home game of the season, United require a maximum of six points to secure Champions League football next season. The tally required could yet reduce if Liverpool keep up with their determination not to challenge for the Champions League but after two defeats on the bounce, we could have been heading into this fixture only a point ahead of 5th if the Scousers were not having a worse season than us.
Still, after threatening to end the season in title-winning form, the last two games have seen us put our season in danger of ending in a whimper. The good news is that we still have it in our hands to end the season as high a s second with 12 points from the remaining 4 games. Avoiding that August qualifier in the Champions League next season should at least be the target from hereon.
First though, United have to get back to winning ways this weekend. Regardless of the fitness of Michael Carrick, a home win over West Brom who have nothing much to play for should not be too big an ask. The Baggies won this fixture last season and have already held us to a draw at the Hawthorns so they do not really have any recent bad memories against us to send them in a cold sweat. Tony Pulis will have been pleased how Everton went about nullifying United last weekend by gifting them all the possession they desired and hitting them decisively on the break. It's a strategy that you feel will be readily employed by the midlands club tomorrow.
The question is how does Louis van Gaal counter it? Shall we be treated to another afternoon of United struggling to break through two banks of 4? Shall we be content to play around the box again as the opposition wait for us to give the ball away and hit us on the break with knowledge of our soft centre both in midfield and defence? Shall the boss mix it up by adding Angel Di Maria from the start at the expense of one of Fellaini or Ashely Young? Whatever the case, United cannot afford to be as lacklustre as they were (right from the warm up according to the boss) last Sunday. Every game is worth three points whether its the Manchester derby or the visit of West Brom. Therefore the desire and hunger should be as great.
Robin van Persie completed his procedural return from injury with the U-21s at Craven Cottage during the week in which he scored a brace. With a full three weeks regime under his belt in trying to regain fitness, the question will be asked more than ever whether he gets to start at the tip of United's attack on Saturday. With Wayne Rooney struggling for fitness after succumbing to a knee injury on Merseyside, that question could yet be academic. The Dutchman seems likely to remain at the club beyond the summer and so you wonder whether the boss would like to see how he copes with the system that we have been thriving with lately. He is, lest we forget, still harbour one of the deadliest left foot belters in world football. Therefore unlike Radamel Falcao, there is something obvious about the Dutchman to work with.
With Arsenal and City not in action till Monday and Sunday respectively, how do United fancy looking down on all but one club overnight Saturday? We'll find out soon enough.