Manchester United escaped with a 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns, although the game was not easy.
Despite the fact United scored two first-half goals and seemed set to stomp the opposition, West Brom woke up after the break and made things difficult for United. The Red Devils weathered the storm, however, and escaped with a huge 2-1 win that kept United’s 11-point gap with Manchester City alive.
Here’s our one-on-one analysis from Sunday’s game:
David De Gea – 6
The Spanish goalkeeper wasn’t decisive as he had been in past matches, but still got the job done. Racked up four saves, and he did not have a lot of blame on the goal he conceded, as it came after several rebounds in the six-yard box. Responded in the other sequences where he was required.
Antonio Valencia – 5
The Ecuadorian right-back was mostly ineffectual in this game. He failed to represent much of a threat going forward, and was just okay defensively. He left the pitch in the second half due to injury and was replaced by Marcos Rojo, so his availability for next Wednesday’s Carabao Cup game against Bristol City is in question at the moment.
Chris Smalling – 6
Smalling led the side with five clearances, and added two interceptions and one tackle. Looked quite composed at the back, and was fast on his lateral movements when he had to clear the spaces for Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia. Has been playing well of late, and it seems he will remain as Jones’ replacement while Eric Bailly remains out.
Phil Jones – 6
Jones was the most active defender for United in this game. Aside from the fact he was forced to deal with the strength of Salomon Rondon, he won most of the duels he got engaged with – seven of 11, per SofaScore.com stats. He finished the game with four clearances, two tackles, two blocked shots, and one interception.
Ashley Young – 5
Young was one of the best players for Manchester United during November. However, he has not been able to live up to the expectations in December. He looks serviceable at the back, but his defensive positioning always leaves something to be desired. Or maybe it’s just the presence of Marcos Rojo or Luke Shaw’s recent displays that have made him look rather average. But he remains as a starter, since he is competent enough to do a good job even if he doesn’t shine.
Nemanja Matic – 6
Lost the header on the sequence that led to West Bromwich’s only goal. But that was the only “mistake” he committed during the entire game. He looked composed on the ball, and active in midfield. The team is clearly a different one when he is out there patrolling the middle of the pitch.
Ander Herrera – 6
The Spanish playmaker once again started for Paul Pogba. He is not as influential as the French playmaker, everybody knows that. But he distributed the ball nicely in midfield, and looked like a competent playmaker at times. He is widely expected to head back to the bench since Pogba is elegible to return next week.
Juan Mata – 7
The Spanish playmaker looked quite comfortable on the right wing. He assisted Jesse Lingard on the second goal, but looked full of vision during the entire contest. Matic only racked up one key pass, two crosses and two dribbles. However, the stats do not tell the whole story here. The Serbian looked lively on and off the ball, and seems he will remain as a starter going forward if he can keep this up.
Jesse Lingard – 6
Odd performance to rate for Lingard. He did score the second goal, but it was a rather harmless shot that took a deflection on a defender before going in. He looked active and better than in past week, but wasn’t the one-man wrecking crew he was in past matches like Watford’s one.
Marcus Rashford – 7
Rashford was unfortunate not to score in this one. He looked extremely active, and could have found the back of the net with a shot that went slightly wide during the second half. The youngster also assisted Lukaku on the team’s first goal with a great cross. Finished with one shot off target, one key pass, and two crosses (one accurate).
Romelu Lukaku – 7
Perhaps the Belgian striker is beginning to turn things around? Lukaku scored for the second game in a row following his game-winning strike against Bournemouth on Wednesday, and seems to have left his awful performance against Manchester City behind. His performances will always be under scrutiny unless he can start scoring against the top sides, but right now he is scoring again. And if he can re-discover his early-season form, he can make United’s attacking line far more dangerous.
Marcos Rojo replaced Valencia due to injury, and the Argentinian did not have his best game. To be fair, he could have done a bit more on the sequence that led to West Brom’s goal. Meanwhile, Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay entered too late to make a difference.