Man United 0 West Brom 1: Three talking points

Three talking points as Manchester United slip to their third consecutive Premier League defeat

Man United – toothless and unimaginative

Three defeats in their last three games and no goals scored since putting four past cross-town rivals Manchester City, the bright lights of the Manchester United’s future seem to be nothing more than just flickers. Runs of defeats are commonplace in football but what must be most disconcerting for the Old Trafford faithful is how their team look so bereft of ideas to make opportunities to score, let alone convert them. It is not as if the team do not have quality players but the system that Louis van Gaal is currently electing for stifles some of the players creativity. After the dismal days of David Moyes ill-fated reign, the most successful side in English top-flight football have managed to get themselves into the top-four positions in the table and will definitely be competing in Europe next season. However, it has hardly been the re-ascent to greatness like many were hoping for. While this viewpoint could be subjective, the fact is that since the club’s win over Aston Villa on 4 April, no United forward has scored in the league, or other competition for that matter since the Red Devils are allegedly only competing on one front. One can excuse the losses away from home at champions-elect Chelsea and a resurgent Everton, but losing at home to a tough and unexpansive West Brom will be a bitterer pill to swallow.

Pulis is the unquestionable jedi master of Premier League survival

In 1958, a man was born near to the Welsh city of Newport. After a career playing for a multitude of football league clubs, this man promptly turned to management, and earned a reputation of creating functional teams that are hard to beat and break. If you are a chairman of club staring relegation firmly in the face, and if no-one else can help and if you tempt him then maybe you should hire Tony Pulis. After his heroics in keeping Crystal Palace in the Premier League last season, the reigning Premier League manager of the year stepped into the breach at West Brom, after Alan Irvine’s dismal run which saw the Baggies perilously hanging over the relegation zone. Once again, Pulis looks destined to maintain his record of avoiding relegation in his managerial career and deserves credit once more for keeping the Midlanders in the top flight. Under Irvine, West Brom looked weak and en route to the Championship due to a number of uninspired and lifeless performances. Against United, Pulis played to his own strengths, which have formed the foundations of his managerial career – encamping the majority of his side in the space in front of Boaz Myhill’s goal and demanding that the hosts break his team down. For long periods of the game, Pulis made Louis van Gaal’s men looked pedestrian as West Brom dug in and frustrated the home side. Sure it was not one for the purists but the Welshman won’t mind as his team reach the magical mark of 40 points.

Fourth-placed or bust

By losing to West Brom at home for the second time in successive seasons, United now have just three more opportunities to ensure that their club and hierarchy of lofty ambitions returns to the Champions League – the place where some followers of the red half of Manchester believe their team firmly belongs. Trips to Crystal Palace and Hull are sandwiched either side of a crunch tie with Arsenal but a victory against the Baggies would have essentially minimised any ambitions Liverpool have of making the top four, while solidifying their own stake. Louis van Gaal famously retracted one of his many bold statements about how he should be judged on his performance after three months but while the club are poised to return to Europe at least, at no point have Manchester United found a way to return to their previous pomp and swagger under Alex Ferguson. In truth, van Gaal has done relatively well in his first 35 games at the helm of Manchester United but he is still a long way for his target ambition. Old Trafford no longer has the fear factor of yesterday and the other 19 clubs are all aware of this fact.

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