The two sides meeting at the Hawthorns today might be ten spots and twenty points apart in the Premier League table, but both West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United have a point to prove (Watch live on NBCSN at 7:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra).
The visitors head to the Midlands still desperately hoping for some sort of miracle that could turn their season around. United have won two of their last five games, the ones against relegation-battling Cardiff City and not-so-safe Crystal Palace. They also lost to Stoke and could only draw with bottom side Fulham. If David Moyes wants to see his side playing in Europe next season, a long unbeaten run is a necessity.
They could very well begin that streak against the Baggies. West Brom sacked Steve Clark in December, bringing in Pepe Mel a month later. They may as well have stuck with Keith Downing as caretaker manager, for all the good Mel is doing. In his first seven matches in charge, the Albion have won exactly zero, although West Brom fans might argue that draws with Everton, Chelsea, and Liverpool are enough to recommend the Spaniard.
Moyes needs to caution his side to keep their guard up – of the Baggies’ four draws under Mel, they’ve come from behind each time, scoring after the hour mark.
Mel has made a few changes to his starting XI, with Zoltán Gera, Victor Anichebe, Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu all getting the start. In defense, Steven Reid takes the place of the injured Billy Jones, while Matej Vydra, who got the equalizer last week, remains on the bench.
Moyes, too, is making changes – five, in fact, from the team that lost 2-0 to Olympiakos in Champions League play. Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj come in, while the great center back pairing of old, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić, are out, replaced by Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. And, naturally, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are starting.
West Brom: Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob, Mulumbu; Amalfitano, Gera, Brunt, Anichebe
Substitutes: Myhill, Morrison, Thievy, Vydra, Sessegnon, Dawson, Berahino
Manchester United: De Gea, Da Silva, Smalling, Jones, Evra, Carrick, Fellaini, Mata, Rooney, Januzaj, van Persie
Substitutes: Giggs, Lindegaard, Vidic, Young, Welbeck, Fletcher, Kagawa