Man United 1-2 West Brom: testing times for players, staff and fans

Author: Doron

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After the lows of last weekend, the midweek win over Liverpool lifted spirits a bit and everything seemed to be back on track again. Moyes stuck with many of the players who beat Liverpool with the likes of Buttner, Jones, Evans, Nani, Hernandez and Kagawa retained whilst Anderson got a start in the middle. What unfolded was far from ideal. We welcome comments from both sets of fans.

Worrying Rio being troubled by space

It was highlighted last week against Man City that Ferdinand looked troubled. Off the pace, confused and with errors in him his start to the season has been a throwback to the autumn of 2009. His response then was to compensate for his diminishing pace by giving himself more space and the adjustment came good with last season as good as any from him.

Oddly it’s space that is causing problems again now. Whether it’s a reflection of the players selected (in that some are not defensive minded) or it’s a tactical move to expand United’s play, there’s so much space being opened up for opponents between our lines. Sessegnon was taking up positions in front of United’s back four with ease today and running at our defenders front on which troubled them. Even when we weren’t chasing the game in the first half this was the case. Wingers weren’t getting back and Anderson and Carrick struggled against West Brom’s middle three. Again, like last week, three in the middle is something we have to match up to in a more effective way. It’s meant that both Carrick and Anderson had to cover so much ground that invariably they were out of position and then had very few options when in possession.

Predicting what will happen to a player with age isn’t easy. Rio turns 35 later this year but someone like Distin turns 36 and is only seemingly getting better. The amount of times someone like Ferdinand or Lampard has responded to claims of being ‘past it’ means he shouldn’t be written off but his error count this season is alarmingly high and he should have performed better on both of West Brom’s goals.

Individuals surprisingly given a chance but let Moyes down

The emphasis on rotation was probably never overly great at Everton. David Moyes had a small squad competing in predominantly one competition with the odd cup run. At United, he has a first team squad of more than 25 players all capable of contributing positively towards results. There has to be a learning curve in terms of keeping players fresh and fit but also knowing when to make changes and when to stick.

In the opening few games Moyes opted for a settled side, picking some of the more experienced players and probably not making use of the options he’s had available. After the midweek win over Liverpool he opted to reward many of those who started that game possibly still part of the City fall-out and no doubt with one eye on Shakhtar away in the week. It’s easy in hindsight to say he may have made a mistake there but few expected the team that was selected today.

Maybe there was some naivety there. Players who needed minutes on Wednesday weren’t necessarily fresh to start today. Keeping Evra sharp and Rafael is admirable and welcomed but they were arguably unnecessary changes. Having been conservative with selections he went from one extreme to the other with too many changes from league game to league game. In doing so he introduced partnerships that were simply unfamiliar – Jones-Nani and Buttner-Kagawa the obvious two.

There were winners though – Evans and Nani didn’t do much wrong. Nani in particular put in a series of excellent crosses in the first half and was the only player for much of the game trying to inject pace and unpredictability into United’s flow. Most of the rest of the team played within themselves though – it was probably wrong to single out Rio in the first point in this piece on that basis. It would be easy to pick Anderson out but Carrick wasn’t necessarily any better despite making more passes than any other player on the pitch by some distance.

Squeezing that extra bit of intensity out of players was something that Fergie was excellent at and although Moyes tried and made positive substitutions (particularly Januzaj at half time) he was ultimately let down. Tactics weren’t necessarily the problem, having so many players play so sub-averagely was and it must be as frustrating for the staff as it is for the fans that this is the case, especially when some should be attempting to play themselves into a regular starting spot.

Fair play to West Brom

It would be completely unfair to talk about the game and not pay credit to West Brom, and that’s not to deflect attention off United either. What Clarke set out to do was simple but effective – a solid central base with pace and trickery on the counter. The early injury of Sinclair was in the end a blessing. Berahino may be a new name to some but his talent has been known about for a while (and his fabulous story from Burundi to the Baggies will no doubt be told again soon). His pace and desire to get shots away matched the direct style of play that West Brom undertook when in possession – running at United and not letting us get men behind the ball.

Moyes suggested United controlled the game and maybe that’s true – possession and passing stats will reflect that but there’s no doubting which side made better use of the ball and created the better chances. I felt for long spells that a draw was probably a fair reflection of the game but by the end it was hard to begrudge West Brom the win.


You’ll read about that being United’s worst start to a season since before the Premier League era. The fixture listed suggested it would be tough but it was also these kind of games (no disrespect to West Brom) that would have offered some comfort after the storm.

Moyes and his staff will need to start to find the right balances in terms of systems and selections but anyone who assumed a big managerial transition would go without glitches is very much mistaken. Not least because Moyes didn’t manage to get what he wanted in the transfer window this summer. He’s inherited a league winning squad but one that has its holes and they’re still yet to be patched up – it’ll take time and at least two transfer windows you’d imagine.

Back to the game and after a tight first half Amalfitano opened United up with ease, dancing around players before a glorious chipped finish – one that would be talked about for hours if it was a more profiled player who’d scored it. United were quick to respond though when Rooney’s free kick evaded everyone and found the far corner but despite bringing van Persie on there was no further response until right at the end and Berahino finished clinically from the edge of the area with 25 minutes to go.

United were lethargic and played without any zip or urgency – although often lamented, both Cleverley and Welbeck were missed (Cleverley had a knock and Welbeck only just back from a knee problem). The club have been cautious with Zaha so far, letting him settle into the club but it’ll be worth giving him a chance soon like the way Januzaj has been trusted.

The current predicament provides a good if unwelcomed test for the supporters. As a group we’re used to winning games and hence trophies. Victories have covered up the fact that we’ve not played overly good football for a few years and in a lot of cases they’ve only come about because of the Fergie factor. Success has grown the fanbase but also meant there is a sense of entitlement among a large section of the fans. After six games, anyone calling for the manager’s head should take a step back – Moyes may not have been everyone’s first choice but he’s in charge of the club now and to quote @jay_in_essex: you’re either on the bus or you can do one. Onwards to Shakhtar.

14 Comments on Man United 1-2 West Brom: testing times for players, staff and fans

  1. Ive made many comments regarding backing moyes solidly. Some good points from todays game, I thought nani looked like he wanted to take fight to west brom,
    Wayne looked like the captains armband has given him an extra 10-15% he couldn’t find for most of last season.
    Januzaj looks (so far this season) like he is going to get a fair bit of game time, well done Moyes.

    I said on facebook, and will say again, I think (with some sadness) that we have to think that Rio time is almost up, maybe the odd game, but for me, its not a case of who will partner vidic in center of defence .
    How many more times are we going to give Anderson a go, yes he can have the odd game (1in20) where he looks like world beater but the rest of time he is a 3-5/10 player.

    I dont get why Zaha hasn’t had the gametime yet, i would seriously have him on bench bringing him with 20/30mins on when playres tiring he will kick ass,
    We have to remember that west brom midweek played extra time but becaus of our pedastrian pace we made it easy for them.

    But like you said (and i said to my brother who is a baggies fan) they deserved to win, in pretty much every area of the pitch they better, stronger and quicker.

    But I am and always will be a UTD fan, i will follow them through the bad years, and enjoy the good years even more and hell we have had 20+ years of that fun 🙂

    So im 100% behind moyes, yes its rough start, but things will get better, but look at league and thankfully our main competitors are doing no better with far easier starts….

  2. For a starter, an excellently written article. It mirrored my mind. Yes, our tactics were good. The first half was lively. Nani especially . I thought Kagawa was getting back to his best too. He showed some neat touches and passes. Though Januzaj made some mazy runs and does look a great player to be, was brought on at a wrong time. He should have been brought on a bit later, unless kagawa had a niggle.
    I never thought i’d see Anichebe dominating Rio ever in my life. Goes to show Rio is to be managed very carefully and rotated wisely. Phil Jones is certainly meant for a central role than being deployed out wide. A RB with ball playing skills was missed and could have offered Nani a perfect foil going forward.
    I’m still bemused as to why Zaha’s waiting for his debut for us, but i guess Moyes has his reasons.
    Anyway, I really think we ought to be showing more passion on the field. I miss the imposing figure of Keane. 🙁
    Lastly, Fergie would have ground out wins even with such displays, but that was Fergie!! I can only hope Moyes would grow into the role, with his guidance. After all Fergie is still at OT. I trust his judgement. I trust Moyes !!!! Like u said, Onward to Shakhtar on wednesday !!! Looking forward to the next matchday….

  3. The only comforting thing is that Moyes’ EFC sides always had sub par starts and only kicked on in the 2nd half of season.

  4. Has this got anything to do with Moyes new training regime? Like there was chat in the Dutch press that he was overtraining van persie and today well we looked knackered especially rio who probably is permanently knackered

  5. i really dont understand wht has happened to utd players. they just dont seem to be determined to win unlike the previous seasons. is the absence of SAF got to do with the same or not.. i dont know… but the time is running out n we need to kickoff early so get the season undergoing…
    #inmoyeswetrust #ggmu

  6. Moyes look don’t panic with such pressure just remember one thing these player is the backborne of united the should not be replace in case if we are winning are rest them for big match. The player is
    rafael,vidic,evra in defences
    valencia,carrick in midfield
    rooney in attack.

    Rafael and valencia have great understanding they help each other both in attack and defences.

    For evra now you must know why sir alex play and used him every match and still looking for his suitable replacement which can match him despite fabio,buttner.

    For vidic he is the boss not ferdinand. Vidic you can pair him with evans,jones or who you want but he must not be bench or sub. The rotation mean changing partner but vidic should remain in defences in case of injuries

    And final rooney we are bless that we have w.rooney in man utd and you know well what rooney can do. We all fan love him.

    Fellaini he will take little time to adapt and then he will become regular just like carrick.

    All the best moye for champion league match and i hope to see these player which i have mention.
    As united big fan i don’t want united to lose such match but i understand you don’t know the player very well.

  7. Rio has had issues in the opening months of the last few seasons following on from 2009. After the 3-2 home defeat to Spurs last season he seemed to have a word with himself, then went onto be our best centre back last season in my opinion. Season before he struggled with injury initially and performed poorly in the Champions League.

    As far as the start to our season goes, our players need to start taking more responsibility for their performances. Moyes is giving every player their chance to impress in the shirt with a view to forming his own first team. If you can’t get up for it enough when every first team position is up for grabs then some players deserve blame, not Moyes. Buttner, Anderson, Young in particular have been poor despite being played in their preferred positions.

    Moyes now needs to pay attention to this and build in his mind a definitive first team with players he can trust to perform as back up.

  8. After the anger I felt yesterday, I am happy reading this article and seeing that the we’re still loving the team despite the difficult start.
    I think we should really get some bodies in January to replace some of our boys who aren’t delivering. I only Moyes is taking note of the poor performers and we’ll send them out but I do not get why Kagawa was subbed. Ando deserved the chop so that Shinji could move centrally with Januzaj going wide. Nani looked bright when he didn’t have to be restricted to the wide areas and maybe that should be the cue. Let’s try him and in more central parts so that he can float about. maybe that will unleash his potential.
    Aside that, Rio needs to wake up. He was so off yesterday, it was frightening but someone asked if it was a consequence of intense training. If it is, Moyes should please address it. It numbs our efforts on the pitch.

    Still we believe and we will come good but the board must do all they can to help us get our targets in the market. GGMU

  9. How many times did Rooney lose the ball yesterday? plenty. Yet no one mentions him just because he scored a lucky freekick. He also wasted a glorious chance after being teed up by Nani late on. Kagawa’ s vision in the final third is better than Rooney but he wont be played there because he’s not physical & native. SAF had set the stage for Kagawa to be our next No.10 until a certain clueless, tactically inept Scot was named United coach.
    Jones at RB ( conservatism which he tried to hide by selecting many a forward players) will never work & we all saw how isolated Nani was most of the game. Kagawa created our best chances until Moyes decided to ‘ try something new’. Poor selection & clueless subs is what Moyes has done so far and is not encouraging at all.
    And finally, replacing Rene with the likes of Neville was never going to work, especially with a conservative manager who knows nothing but defensive 4-4-2 soccer.

  10. @Shadrack Frass – he didn’t replace Rene with anyone other than himself. The reason Rene wasn’t retained in that same role was that Moyes is very hands on with training and likes to take it himself, Fergie wasn’t like that and so Rene was the one who took training. Rene was therefore offered a different role within the club and declined it.

  11. this fucking blog is pathetic – all other blogs about united just write truth and don’t put things in to the cotton wool – we are shit and fucking terrible and man responsible for this is fucking fergie and his fucking moron buddy moyes and glazers because they couldnt stump up the cash. but here you writing total and complete bulshit that fergie and glazers would propably are delighted about – everything is fine, moyes is top world class coach he knows that he is doing and sir alex fergusson is a god (more bullshit is cleverley is good wekbeck is good kagawa is injured or dont have fitness etc etc etc. moyes out!

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