Reaction from today’s game at the Hawthorns.
Just about enough
There were wobbles, which we’ll come on to, but for 70 minutes this was the perfect away performance. Disciplined, controlled, and at times aggressive enough to penetrate; United’s two goal haul from the first half was generous on their hosts.
These are the performances to use as the yardstick which demonstrates the progression from the Manchester United team inherited by Jose Mourinho 18 months ago to where they are now.
More has been made about Lukaku’s lack of celebrations than his goals over the last week. It is being suggested that this is a reaction to the criticism the Belgian has faced. If so, his muted reactions are looking like he is making the point against United’s own fans.
This would be a dangerous move for a player who has had the backing of all of the supporters. Lukaku is young but experienced enough to know that strikers at top clubs are not only judged upon goals. Does he believe he is the finished article? Is he content to go through these goalless runs? Does he not feel he should make more of an impact in the bigger games? Is he not disappointed that he hasn’t, yet?
As was the case in midweek – this was a fine finish, but not unexpected. We know Lukaku can do this, and it’s not without its own value. Lukaku ought to reflect on this afternoon and consider the perception of his body language. Nobody is doubting his potential yet but he would be far better served shrugging that chip off his considerably-sized shoulder and dedicating himself to self-improvement.
Where there’s a will
West Brom hadn’t scored since dinosaurs roamed the earth but bring a Manchester United defence to town with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the middle and they become more benevolent than Santa Claus himself.
Forget about chasing top spot and the improvements which need to be made. United should have been coasting in this game but they looked increasingly edgy and uncertain. Confidence comes from the solidity of the back; nervousness spreads from the lack of it. While they are still capable of being their own worst enemy, there’s no need to talk about actual opponents.
Equally generous was Ander Herrera. His carelessness in possession invited so many attacks from the Baggies. His place in the first team has been gifted due to the fact he is the only senior midfielder left to partner Nemanja Matic in the absence of Fellaini and Pogba. He has not made the most of the opportunity he was given and you have to think he is on borrowed time at Old Trafford.
This is a significant blow but may present an opportunity. On the one hand, some may think moving Young across is the answer and those people may believe the injury may present a solid route back into the first team for Luke Shaw. On the other, what an opportunity this is for Axel Tuanzebe. If only Timothy Fosu-Mensah was not at Palace, because this is the opportunity people have been crying out for.