Manchester United’s hardly battered West Brom on Saturday during their 2-0 win to go within a point of first place in the Premier League, but manager Louis Van Gaal was pleased with the “patience” his team showed.
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United, who had scored just once in four games going into this match, bossed possession in the first half but went in level at the break against a stubborn Tony Pulis led West Brom outfit.
However, just seven minutes into the second half an academy graduate put them ahead as Jesse Lingard, 22, scored his first goal for the Red Devils and vindicated the faith his manager had shown in him.
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Van Gaal chose to start Lingard ahead of Memphis, Ander Herrera and others, and the youngster from Warrington delivered.
“How Jesse finished was remarkable. In a training session this week he had two chances like this and he shoots at once and I told him he needs to take a touch before the shot, which he did today,” van Gaal said. “I give every player a chance – always. When you are in my squad I will give you a chance. He grabbed it with both hands.”
With United hardly free-flowing in attack, teenage forward Anthony Martial was once again the bright spot as his cross led to Lingard’s opener and he won a penalty kick in injury time which led to Juan Mata making it 2-0. Van Gaal was pleased that his side stuck to their task despite mounting pressure from the fans to see more goals and be entertained.
“Everybody knows who has played football that the most difficult way to score is against a very defensive team. The space is only at the wings and we have tried to do that. The only way you can play against such a defensive, organised team is the way we do it, you need patience. In the second half West Brom are more tired and the chances come. The goal changed the game, we had more space. Then you can see the qualities of Anthony Martial, and we score the second goal out of his actions.”
In recent games fans of United have chanted “attack, attack, attack” from the stands and although their team were slightly laborious once again in the final third, they did finish the chances they were given on Saturday. This United side seem more pragmatic than ever as the kept a clean sheet for the fifth-straight game in all competitions and moved to just one-point behind Manchester City, Leicester City and Arsenal at the top of the table, although both Arsenal and Man City play on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney was subbed out in the second half after another display in which he toiled up top but struggled to get any clear-cut chances, but even without their talisman firing on all cylinders, United go the job done and compared to recent outings, scoring twice in the same game represents a glut of goals. Lingard’s emergence in recent weeks is also a big plus for LVG, as the England U-21 international has clearly developed after several loan spells away from Old Trafford and the local lad looked composed as he added a goal to his sublime assist for Rooney in their UEFA Champions League win in midweek.