The seemingly eternal wait for Premier League football over the last 13 days is finally over. I’m not one who persistently berates International football and calls for Hodgson’s head on a plate every time Wayne Rooney misplaces a pass, but I just prefer the flights and drops of the the Premier League as opposed to the tedious lull of European qualifiers.
The hyperbole surrounding Manchester United following the past 2 results is understandable but notoriously unwarranted; successive home victories against West Ham and Everton would hardly merit such enthusiasm and talking points in the days of Ferguson, but following what Manchester United fans have been through over the last 12 months I do appreciate that seeing the likes of Falcao and Di Maria looking increasingly ominous causes one to abandon their normally pessimistic ways.
Louis van Gaal and Co head to the Hawthorns following consecutive victories for only the 3rd time in 2014 with a relatively healthy record; 8 goals in the last 2 visits to the Hawthorns certainly implies that it isn’t a very tough place to visit whatsoever. Since their promotion in 2010, the spoils have actually mainly arisen at Old Trafford; throwing away a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 back in October 2010 and of course the ghastly defeat at home last season where The Baggies legitimately outplayed us still haunts me to this day.
Manchester United currently sit 10 places, but only 3 points higher than WBA. Meaning that should the Midlands side triumph on Monday by a 5-goal margin they could leapfrog Manchester United. Adam Levine’s side suffered a poor start to their 2014/15 campaign and actually went 4 games without scoring until they finally picked up their first win of the season away to Spurs. Since then, they’ve smashed Burnley at home and produced an encouraging display away to Liverpool despite defeat. In other words, both teams in this upcoming encounter are beginning to find their feet.
Injury wise, West Brom will have to make do without their record signing Brown Ideye or Victor Anichebe for Mondays fixture, meaning that a side who have managed 8 goals this season so far (half of those coming against Burnley and a quarter being penalties) will potentially result in striking options being slightly scarce. James Brunt also misses out.
Yesterday’s press conference brought some wonderfully good news in terms of personnel availability. The surplus of injuries that Louis van Gaal has been forced to deal with is beginning to take a back seat. Jonny Evans, Paddy McNair, Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard are the only certain absentees for Monday night with the latter being the only long-term injury. The likes of Ander Herrera, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Michael Carrick will all travel to the Hawthorns but will most likely have to settle for a place to the bench; regardless, the strength in depth that Manchester United can now boast is as impressive as its been for an extremely lengthy period of time.
If you juxtapose the potential team that could line up on Monday night compared to the makeshift starting XI that was beaten by Swansea on the opening day of the season you would outwardly chuckle at the thought of how you expected that team to produce anything remotely impressive.
Prediction: WBA 1-3 Manchester United