If you’re anything like me, you probably spent the hours following the 1-0 defeat to West Brom sulking and extremely depressed. You’re not alone, as this loss was one of the hardest losses to swallow all season for most fans. The main reason for this is rather obvious. When Manchester United play West Brom at home, 9/10 times you’d expect nothing less than 3 points. Even if we were away, as a United supporter you’d still be incredibly confident in our side to get the win. But against all odds, West Brom left Old Trafford with all 3 points. How did this happen? Lets review our performance.
Possibly the most annoying fact of all, is our reign of dominance not reflected in the scoreline. By game’s end, United had 76% possession as to West Brom’s 24%. We had nearly the same issue with Chelsea as we ruled play, but came away with a defeat. Many question the effectiveness of Van Gaal’s possession game because of this string of results. The entire match, we completely controlled the tempo of the match. The goal for West Brom came from a rather lucky free-kick deflection into our net. Outside of this, in free play they didn’t have many chances to score. Many fans may feel slightly unlucky about our result because of this, as we may have regulated midfield play, but came away empty-handed. A large reason for our failure to win was our terrible display offensively.
Our finishing was rather pitiful, as United had a whopping 26 shots, compared to West Brom’s lowly 6. Many of our shots were off-target, but those that weren’t were effectively saved by West Brom’s keeper, who had an admittedly stunning performance. Late in the second half, Robin Van Persie stepped up to take a penalty that could have completely changed our result. However, West Brom’s keeper made another brilliant save from the bottom right corner. Shortly after this, United also earned a threatening free-kick. However, we missed this opportunity rather horrendously. For the most part, our finishing was awful. And even though Van Persie played a large role in our lack of effectiveness offensively, he had a rather decent performance. His first start in months, and he was able to look active, contribute in passing, and put some decent shots on goal. He shows signs of improving yet again. No-one specific was really to blame for our lack of goals. It seemed to be an almost universal cluelessness at times. This may be due to focus on other areas of play when in training, and slight neglect of finishing work. If this is the case, I am confident that Van Gaal will make efforts to correct this after seeing our performance.
In summary, it is fairly obvious that while United may have lost, we may have actually been the better team all things considered. I’m by no-means saying we deserved to win, as I feel West Brom earned their result, and we didn’t seem to want it enough. However, we did much right, and really worked the midfield. We mainly need to work on finishing and offensive prowess. If we can put proper finishing to that type of bossing performance, I am confident that we can beat any team in the league. If we want to secure a Champions League campaign for next season, we simply must perfect our play.