They revealed United were comfortably superior in the game, boasting 64% possession and creating 17 shots, seven of which were on target. No wonder much of the post-game praise went to Albion goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, whose saves to deny Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial had just come out of the top drawer. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer even joked that United made a mistake in letting Johnstone leave the club.
Still, it was clear United should have been much more clinical to assert their dominance at Old Trafford.
For fans of such measures, United’s expected goal count was 2.47 compared to West Brom’s 0.50, meaning they did enough to score more than two goals. It was not just the story of two sanction decisions.
The goal hero was once again Bruno Fernandes, and even he identified where United struggled against the Baggies, sending a thinly veiled request to his attacking teammates on where and how they need to improve.
Fernandes said: “They played very good football, they were strong at the back. [but] I think we can do a lot better in the last third. Less passes, you have to do a lot better with the shoot, I think everyone is okay with that.
“The performance was good but we can do better.
“We had a few chances. Maybe if we score in the first half it will be a lot easier. Because maybe they open the game to us. But we had chances and everyone agrees that we can have better performances than that.
“We have already shown that we have more qualities than what we have shown today. “
Those comments should make it easier for United on the training ground in the coming days. They didn’t have much time together to prepare for this meeting, with strikers like Fernandes, Martial and Edinson Cavani all gone on an international mission until the end of the week. Solskjaer claimed he only had 20 minutes to properly prepare at West Brom.
But maybe the Norwegian will also admit that he also made a mistake in selecting his squad.
Was it really necessary to start both Nemanja Matic and Fred in defensive midfield in a match like this? Even with Paul Pogba sidelined with a ‘hit’ and Scott McTominay not ready to start after his excursions to Scotland, it was as if Solskjaer had missed an opportunity to start Donny van de Beek.
Manchester United beat West Brom 1-0 to ultimately clinch a home win in the Premier League this season.
It wasn’t pretty but it means two successive victories for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, who need to balance league and Champions League commitments over a busy period in the coming weeks.
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Van de Beek, Fred and Fernandes is one of the few midfield combinations that Solskjaer has yet to try since the Premier League started this season. But it can be ideal for taking on opponents like West Brom. The United manager was understandably a little shy after seeing his side struggle at home this season, and they were caught in the cold after choosing a more offensive side against Crystal Palace on opening day.
But the plan should be simple against the West Broms of this world. One of Fred, McTominay or Matic as a midfielder, Pogba or Van de Beek as an advanced and creative No.8, with Fernandes behind a forward three.
It’s an attacking roster that should give Solskjaer the tools to beat most teams at Old Trafford.
Maybe now the home victory monkey is finally off their backs, Solskjaer can select with more confidence. He needs to get Martial and Rashford to shoot and he needs Mason Greenwood back on the right wing to inject rhythm and cruelty in front of goal.
United blew teams away after the lockdown earlier this year with a dynamic and forward-thinking front six. Solskjaer must not forget this winning formula.