Cast your mind back six days ago and the bookies would have you believe that the two front-runners in the “Premier League sack race” were none other than, Pepe Mel and David Moyes. The rather unexpected sacking of then Technical Director of Performance, and close ally of Mel, Dave McDonough seen the future of the Spaniard cast into doubt. So much so, that he was quickly installed as the favourite to follow Michael Laudrup and six… yes six other unlucky managers in being removed from their Premiership post this season.
Fast-forward twenty-four hours, and after a disastrous performance in Athens it is widely rumoured that an emergency board meeting has been summoned and the topic of the day is the future of a certain David Moyes. Emanating from this alleged summit of shareholders was a substantial outlay of money on Moyes to be the next major casualty in the managerial merry-go-round that is the modern Premier League. So strong was the money behind Moyes that his odds were subsequently slashed form 11/1 to 8/11, all within the space of one hour.
However, with both teams initially due to play Carling Cup finalists, Man City and Sunderland, their respective games were duly called off as a consequence. A weekend free of football may have been a blessing in disguise however, as the relentless pressure ceased and talk of sackings and P45’s were subsequently put on hold.
In recent years the fixture of away to West Brom would not have held such significance. But like everything that has materialised thus far this season normality isn’t the operative word, and this game, could, in fact, be one of the most significant of the Moyes reign. On the back of that calamitous performance away to Olympiakos, Moyes is beginning to walk a tight rope of thread-like proportions. Having become accustomed to a high degree of unsubstantiated criticism in his maiden months, it is fair to say that recently, the condemnation is warranted. Moyes, contrary to popular belief is not all of a sudden an inept manager, but is instead failing to deal with the pressure of his predecessor’s success.
As one of those who backed him upon his arrival and continued to do so on the basis that the rocky start can be attributed to acclimatising to his new role, it is with a degree of disappointment that I state he probably has twelve games to save his job, and this begins with West Brom on Saturday.
United come into the game in relatively poor form having only won two of their previous six Premiership games. On the back of what can be described as one of the worst performances in recent memory against Olympikaos, not just a result, but also a reaction is expected. Having not picked up back-to-back wins since December, Moyes’ men will be looking to kick on and cement some sort of respectable challenge for that highly unlikely fourth spot. Anything less could result in the eventual departure of the “chosen one”. With Fellaini finally picking up a bit of form having scored for Belgium midweek and with Mata further acclimatising to new surroundings and teammates alike, it is hoped that the two big name arrivals can kick on for the remainder of what has been an equally disappointing and disheartening campaign.
United Team News
Newly crowned player of the month Juan Mata will be raring to go having missed the game in Athens due to being cup tied, whilst also sitting out the midweek internationals having been surprisingly omitted from the Spain squad that faced Italy. Nani is more than likely still sidelined, while Hernandez is definitely out having sustained a knee injury while on international duty with Mexico. Evra is expected to be fit despite taking a blow to the face against Robin Van Persie’s Holland, while it remains to be seen if Kagawa will play a major role, having traveled the long distance to Tokyo to face New Zealand. Evans and Rafael are expected to return to the squad having missed the previous two games against Palace and Olympiakos. Phil Jones, despite nearing a return to full fitness following a hip/thigh injury, is a doubt.
West Brom Form
West Brom who are without a win since beating Newcastle on New Years day, will be looking to do an unprecedented double over United, having beaten us 2-1 in Old Trafford on September 28th. Since the arrival of Mel, the Baggies are yet to register a win, however, they remain unbeaten at the Hawthorns, and in the process have drawn 1-1 with Everton, Liverpool and most recently Chelsea. Having drawn their last two, West Brom will be looking to claim their first victory under the stewardship of Pepe Mel. Having already taken three points from United as alluded to, and given the inherent aura of vulnerability currently surrounding the United, they may well feel like there will never be an opportunity to take all three points.
West Brom Team News
The Baggies will be without enigmatic front man Nicolas Anelka as he is suspended for five games on the back of his infamous quenelle gesture. Having surprisingly sold Shane Long to Hull in January, the onus will be on Victor Anichebe and Saido Berahino to provide the goal-scoring threat up front. Sessegnon another attacking danger man is expected to make a return from a groin injury while Billy Jones and Diego Lugano are out with respective hamstring and knee injuries.
Ironically, it is in the universally recognised weakest area of United’s team that West Brom are strongest…. midfield. Mulumbu and Jacob together, provide an equal measure of combativeness and technical ability that have seen them forge a ferocious midfield partnership, that on their day can be a match for almost any midfield pairing. With Fellaini and Carrick expected to start in the centre it makes for an intriguing contest, and it is in the engine room I envisage the game being won.
Play Like Fergie’s Boys
Last seasons trip to the Hawthorns and the ensuing feelings and emotions that preceded could not be any further from what will be felt on Saturday. That day was a day of celebration,despite the fact the game was a ridiculous 5-5 draw. For that day was the day that Sir Alex, with a kiss and a bow said goodbye, for good. It was also that day that the now almost infamous “Come on Davey Moyes, Play Like Fergie’s Boys” chant was first heard. While Moyes’s United have yet to play anywhere near like “Fergie’s boys”, be it performance or be it desire, it would be fitting that in the birth place of said song, and upon the turf that Sir Alex walked for the final time as a manager that Moyes’ United exhibit Fergie like characteristics.