Five things learned as Manchester United struggle to beat West Brom

It required a fortunate VAR decision and a re-taken penalty, but Manchester United secured their first home win of the Premier League season. West Brom defended resolutely and were rarely broken down in open play. When they were, Sam Johnstone came up big in goal.

Bruno Fernandes got United the only goal of the game and it gives United a crucial three points.

Cavani movement adds new dimension

It’s a pleasure to watch a striker like Cavani. His movement is refreshing when compared to Martial and Rashford. United have a problem, though. Cavani’s hold-up play is good, but he’s not a dribbler. They’re giving him the ball too early; sometimes on the halfway line when it really needs to wait until he’s closer to the box.

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Ice-cold Bruno comes up big again vs West Brom

It doesn’t really need to be said anymore. Bruno Fernandes is the heart of the team. He was rampant against Everton and, although not quite as good, his work rate and impact were exemplary at home to West Brom.


The retaken penalty, too, demonstrates the composure and mental strength that Fernandes has.

No need for Matic against relegation battlers at home

The Serbian isn’t quick enough to cope against counter-attacks, is not good enough to provide creativity in attack against deep blocks and can never truly cover the defence in these type of games. Solskjaer made a mistake in starting the elder midfielder and it made United’s play stodgy.

United have really struggled in games against teams who sit back. It’s baffling how Matic, or an equivalent, continues to start these games when it’s been proven an ineffective strategy.

Another academy graduate comes back to test United

Sam Johnstone made four outstanding saves for West Brom. He was a highly-rated goalkeeper at United but needed to leave to make a career for himself. Although it’s frustrating on the day of the game itself, it’s pleasing to see academy graduates return to Old Trafford and impress.

United’s world-famous academy is not just there to provide first team players. It also has a responsibility to produce squad players and professionals who can go and enjoy a career elsewhere. Johnstone is evidence of success in that department.

Much more needed from United going forward

There should be a brief nod towards Alex Telles who impressed on his first league start. The important conclusion to take away, though, is that United need much more. It’s easy to see how United will fare within the early minutes of the game. The tempo is a key indicator, and it’s rarely good enough. Perhaps Donny van de Beek could offer United a barometer in the middle. Something must change.

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Life-long Manchester United fan with a strong interest in the club's academy. Host of the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. First game at Old Trafford was the 7-1 rout of AS Roma in 2007.