Our footy writer previews the EPL matchup contested between West Brom and Man United.
Tony Pulis’ Premier League repertoire is one forged from industry and the mantra that what you put in you get out. This was perfectly distilled in Salomon Rondon’s hat-trick on Wednesday night. He is a man who constantly runs the channels and often eludes the plaudits he deserves. But his hard work bore fruit against Swansea, becoming only the second player in Premier League history to score an all headed hat-trick: Only Scottish giant Duncan Ferguson had accomplished this prior to the Venezuelan.
Manchester United ground out a critical victory at Crystal Palace, all the more critical because the majority of their rivals also won. But they have a reasonably friendly set of upcoming fixtures and will be hoping that Pulis’ side will be feeling the effects of an exhausting recent schedule.
West Brom v Manchester United | Saturday 17 December | The Hawthorns | 19:30
To Win (90 Mins)
West Brom 17/4 | Draw 26/10 | Manchester United 13/20
Pulis did well on Wednesday night considering the fact that he had to massively juggle his defensive line-up. Craig Dawson will be back following suspension while Jonny Evans looks set to miss out once again.
The ever dependable Nordic presence of Jonas Olsson will likely partner Gareth McAuley in the heart of defense, making for a rather ‘experienced’ looking center-half combination. Allan Nyom will likely move back to left back while Chris Brunt moves forward. My guess is that Pulis will consider Nacer Chadli a tad too luxurious for this tie, meaning he will drop to the bench to accommodate Chris Brunt’s progression up the park.
Rondon will be licking his lips at the prospect of isolating Marcos Rojo. Phil Jones will no doubt be tasked with man-marking the big guy, especially after injury seems to have spoken for the unfortunate Eric Bailly once again.
Darren Fletcher and Claudio Yacob will have the most difficult afternoon covering an ebullient Paul Pogba. The Frenchman has started to click into gear and is beginning to replicate some of the form that propelled Juventus to the final of the Champions League. West Brom will clearly look to play on the counterattack and keep their midfield as narrow and congested as possible.
Jose Mourinho did well to find the right balance for their match against Crystal Palace, especially considering the injury set-back to Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He forsook Anthony Martial and brought in Wayne Rooney down the left and Juan Mata down the right.
I think that he may opt for the same approach this weekend, with Pogba flourishing in that number ten role. Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick have proved an excellent combination in the heart of midfield and they will have to be mindful of the pace and purposeful running of Matt Phillips.
Rojo has to watch out with those acrobatic double footed tackles that he seems so eager to disperse. His partnership with Jones could prove even more crucial now considering that Eric Bailley seems to have aggravated his other knee.
Generally speaking, United have defiantly turned a corner. They have finally started to pick up the results that their performances have demanded. This has also had the wonderful ancillary benefit of keeping Mourinho well behaved.
Verdict: Manchester United Win (13/20)
West Brom will present a daunting challenge, but I think that the three games in quick succession will tell on their resources. Furthermore, Man United are starting to look impressive. They could cause their aged defense huge issues.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets