MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on March 11, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Honestly, could anything have gone better for Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United side today? Probably not. The Red Devils thoroughly outplayed their opponent and unlike last week, completely deserved to collect the three points. Just as important for United is the shocking result that Swansea City got at home versus Manchester City in rather controversial fashion. Nonetheless, the City loss and Manchester United win means the Devils are a point clear at the top.
As has been customary of late, Manchester United allowed West Bromwich Albion to start well and for the first 10 mins it looked to be a tense affair throughout the match. However, United soon began to dictate play and provide attack upon attack through the unplayable Ashley Young down the left side. Whether this tactic was due to the form of Young or the inclusion of striker Danny Welbeck as the wide right player is debatable. Regardless of the reasoning, Sir Alex's side was able to provide some brilliant buildup play with one touch passing that all originated down the left. The play of Welbeck down the right was very reminiscent of the way Man City play David Silva as he continually drifted inside between the lines to link up play with Rooney, Hernandez, and Young. This movement by Welbeck lead to the passage of play in which United got their opener. The Red Devils had a lopsided shape with the lack of a wide right player, as a result Hernandex began to drift out there in search of the ball. On the goal he got the ball 1 v 1 with the WBA defender at the edge of the box, cut left and took a hard shot to the far corner. Rooney made an intelligent and well timed run to deflect the shot past an out stretched Ben Foster in the 35th minute. United had another opportunity immediately following the goal when Phil Jones headed wide after more outstanding wing play by Ashley Young found Jones unmarked at the far post. The final 10 minutes of the half was more domination by Manchester United by the second would not come. The halftime possession stats tell the story as Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick kept possession in search of unlocking the WBA back 4 to the tune of a 3 to 1 advantage.
After the interval, United continued to dictate play but may have deserved to be level after Peter Obemwingie cut inside of Patrice Evra and was cut down inside the box with the slightest of touches. If it had been given, it would have been soft but difficult to argue. The Red Devils wasted no time in responding by taking the ball immediately downfield in a typical United counterattack that resulted in a beatiful strike from Javier Hernandez that went off the left post. The pressure continued and the second should have come from a beautiful ball over the top by Scholes that could have gone to either Hernandez or Welbeck behind the defense. It landed at Welbeck's feet but he played the half just wide of an open goal. Six minutes later, the game was all but decided when WBA's Jonas Olsson was sent off for a second yellow. The Red Devil's had the majority of possession to that point and now 10 man WBA couldn't prevent the chances to pile up. United were unlucky not to have their second during a wild scramble in front of goal in which Welbeck, Hernandez, and Evra had chances. Moments later, however, Ashley Young again beat his marker and was taken down inside the box. This penalty was given and Wayne Rooney coolly finished his brace. Almost immediately, Sir Alex Ferguson made the substitution that Old Trafford was clamoring for. On came surprise bench inclusion, Paul Pogba. The Old Trafford faithful cheered his every touch and speculation abounded that maybe the youngster has changed his mind to stay. I'm sure Gene will provide more following the post game presser.
I honestly can't give much on Pogba's performance or the last 15 mins, in general, as I was preoccupied with watching Manchester City fall to Swansea City.
All in all, a great day to be a Red Devil and here's to hoping the Blue side of Manchester continues to feel the pressure of squeaky bum time.