Manchester United go for a third consecutive Premier League victory when they travel to the Hawthorns to take on West Bromwich Albion on Monday (20:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
West Brom narrowly avoided relegation from the Premier League last season but have made a decent start to the new campaign under new boss Alan Irvine. They are 14th in the table, with eight points from two wins, two draws and three defeats.
The Baggies gave a good account of themselves in their defeat away to Liverpool prior to the international break. They defended stoutly throughout and in Saido Berahino possessed a forward who caused the Liverpool defence a number of problems. Berahino won and converted from the penalty spot for West Brom’s goal in a narrow 2-1 defeat.
Irvine has gone back to basics and returned West Brom to the solid, counter-attacking style that was previously their hallmark. Pepe Mel unsuccessfully tried to implement a more progressive, possession-based approach during the second half of last season, and the players look much more comfortable playing in a way that is suited to their attributes.
The club’s summer transfer activity was a little scattershot. Sebastian Pocognoli aside, their foreign signings have failed to make much of an impact, with Craig Gardner and Joleon Lescott outperforming the more exotic new arrivals so far. But they do have some good players and, in Berahino, a youngster who is starting to attract attention from bigger clubs.
Irvine will be without the injured Silvestre Varela (groin), while Claudio Yacob has been granted compassionate leave to return to Argentina for family. Chris Brunt (groin) and Victor Anichebe (groin) are doubtful.
Man Utd have oscillated between brilliance and incompetence in the early part of the season, but they are still relatively well-positioned in the nascent Premier League table. They are fourth, with 11 points from three wins, two draws and two defeats.
Louis van Gaal’s side won 2-1 at home to Everton in their last league fixture. Angel Di Maria was again at the heart of most of their best attacking play, scoring the opening goal and then laying on the second for Radamel Falcao Garcia following Everton’s early second-half equaliser. David de Gea made two or three excellent late saves to secure the three points.
It was the fourth match in a row in which United have scored two or more goals and it provided further evidence that their summer signings are starting to pay dividends, at least in attack. Di Maria has notched three goals and three assists in five appearances, Falcao opened his account against Everton, while Ander Herrera has two goals and an assist to his credit.
United still have problems in defence and will probably continue to rely on De Gea’s excellent early-season form for a while yet. But with injuries having so far prevented Van Gaal from picking his first-choice back four, there should be at least some improvement to come. Daley Blind will provide increasingly better protection as he adapts to English football.
Van Gaal is unable to play the injured Johnny Evans (ankle) and Patrick McNair (hamstring) and the suspended Wayne Rooney. Antonio Valencia (hamstring), Chris Smalling (thigh), Michael Carrick (ankle) and Phil Jones (hamstring) are all unlikely to take part. Ander Herrera (rib) will wear a protective corset in order to play.
West Brom v Man Utd Betting Tips
Man Utd were 3-0 victors in last season’s equivalent fixture after West Brom had recorded a surprise 2-1 win in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford. United have won nine and drawn one of the last 10 meetings between the sides at the Hawthorns. West Brom’s last home victory over Man Utd came back in 1984.
Even at home, West Brom are more than happy to soak up pressure and hit opponents on the counter-attack. They will be right at home against a United side who are far more impressive in attack than in defence and will be confident of getting a good result, especially with Berahino in such good form.
After a defeat and two draws in their opening three fixtures, United have won three of their last four Premier League matches. They have the necessary pace and invention to cause problems to almost any defence in the league, but there are clearly still a number of defensive issues for Van Gaal to resolve if his side are to pick up regular victories.
We expect to see a high-scoring match, with a draw the most likely result.
- Back the draw @ best betting odds of 3/1 with Bet365, SkyBet, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Boylesports.
- Both of West Brom’s last two home matches featured at least four goals, while Man Utd fell to a rip-roaring 5-3 defeat at Leicester in their last match away from Old Trafford. Back over 3.5 goals in the ‘total goals’ market @ best odds of 2/1 with William Hill.