Premier League Preview: Manchester United v. West Brom

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• West Brom’s win at Old Trafford last season is their only victory in the last 21 league meetings (D4, L16).

• Wayne Rooney has scored 15 goals in his last 16 Premier League appearances at Old Trafford, compared to one in 17 away from home.

• The Baggies could win back-to-back Premier League away games for the first time since November 2012. (BBC Sport)

Despite being in fourth place, seven points ahead of Liverpool and Tottenham, the Red Devils find themselves in an unfamiliar position with two straight losses.

Last week, it was an inspired Everton side that burst out to a 2-0 lead before the half and then added one more in a 3-0 victory, a result Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal could’ve predicted due to weak warm-ups.

The prior week, Chelsea beat United in a close match, 1-0, but one where Jose Mourinho and the soon-to-be champions had the upper hand.

[RELATED: Preview of Liverpool-QPR]

While these negative outcomes signal a tough conclusion to the year for United, four league games still exist, including a fixture against West Brom on Saturday at 12:30 PM ET, set for viewing on NBC Sports Live Extra and CNBC.

The Baggies are sitting at 13th place and are seven points away from the final relegation spot which Sunderland occupies. They have won two of their last eight contests, with their recent 0-0 draw to Liverpool signifying life at the Hawthorns.

Albion last played United in October 2014 and stayed on level terms by answering the goal of Marouane Fellaini after Stephane Sessegnon scored the opener.

Now, the stakes are higher as WBA looks to ascend the Premier League ranks further, while Van Gaal is aiming for the most respectable finish possible and a return to Champions League action.

What they’re saying

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal on transition to next season (The Guardian): “We need balance in our selection. I have said this many times. I cannot deny that we need balance. I think also the preparation of our season, Manchester United has already adapted to a better preparation….We shall have two bases in the US so we are not flying between matches, we are going via bus which is better. They have adapted to my criteria so we shall have a better preparation.”

West Brom boss Tony Pulis on avoiding relegation (Birmingham Mail): “The thing with this league is that nobody packs it in, everybody keeps going. I’m sure Sean Dyche will be saying that to the lads at Burnley and Chris Ramsey will be saying that to the lads at QPR…While there’s that chance it is that spirit and commitment that this country is renowned for when you are up against it…Nobody gives in.”

Match injuries/absences

Captain Wayne Rooney, although his attendance used to be in question, is ready to go following a knee problem sustained during the loss to Everton. Michael Carrick is still out with a calf injury, and Luke Shaw’s groin ailment is keeping him off the pitch. Defender Jonny Evans will also abstain from play due to sciatic nerve trouble.

On the other side, West Brom midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu will be back from suspension, and loanee from Anfield Andre Wisdom can now take the field, not the case when the Baggies faced his actual club.

Prediction

United’s form should be a lot better at the moment considering the squad is hoping for a top-three finish. WBA will put out a good effort, but the Red Devils will step up when it matters. Manchester United 3-1 West Brom.