West Brom – Manchester United: Sam Allardyce’s Baggies probably needed three, but still got an impressive point from a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at the Hawthorns on Sunday.
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Mbaye Diagne scored an early goal and United could only muster one answer — a sensational Bruno Fernandes goal — in reclaiming second place on 46 points, over Leicester City on goal differential but seven points back of Manchester City. The leaders have played one fewer match.
Sam Johnstone made some big saves late to save the point for Big Sam’s resolute bottom-three side. West Brom’s 13 points are 12 back of 17th-place Newcastle and 13 behind Burnley and Brighton. The Baggies and Seagulls have played 24 matches, while Newcastle and Burnley are on 23.
Three things we learned from West Brom – Manchester United
1. Allardyce lines ’em up right, gets a Big Sam performance: For whatever reason, Sam Allardyce has shown an aversion to playing Matheus Pereira and Conor Gallagher together. It’s odd enough that Big Sam would not utilize his best playmaker in Pereira, though Slaven Bilic also did that thrice in his last six games in charge, but he’s been key to most good attacking things West Brom’s produced pre-Mbaye Diagne. After Allardyce didn’t use him in his first game in charge –the blowout derby loss to Villa — Pereira came off the bench to set up the equalize ay Liverpool, then scoring twice in the win over Wolves, one in a loss to West Ham, and once in the draw with Fulham. The side just looks better when Pereira is on the field with effervescent Chelsea loanee Gallagher. The four times Allardyce hasn’t started Pereira this season? 3-0 loss to Villa, 5-0 loss to Leeds, 2-0 loss to Spurs, and the aforementioned draw with Liverpool in which he changed the game. Allardyce humbly claimed that West Brom would be cooked this season without transfers, and January adds Diagne, Okay Yokuslu, and Robert Snodgrass all did a job for him on Sunday. Is it too late and too little? Probably, but this was a good showing from the man and his men.
2. Diagne menaces but De Gea saves the day: Sam Allardyce brought Diagne to the Hawthorns to score goals and there’s been plenty of threat — usually ruled offside — from the veteran striker before he mauled Lindelof to score a hard-earned goal early. His second physical battle was a less offensive affair, as he bulled his way past a surprised Maguire but was denied by David De Gea. The Spanish goalkeeper got plenty of grief for his role in a 3-3 draw against Everton and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faced merited calls to put Dean Henderson in the lineup. De Gea has plenty of merit, too, and came up big when it mattered on Sunday.
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3. Fernandes remains the key for United, but needs help: What a goal from the Portuguese, who is in the running for Player of the Year for his heroics in the Red Devils’ current status as Premier League title contenders. The 26-year-old now has 19 goals and 12 assists in 35 matches across all competitions, including 14 and 10 in 24 PL outings. Wow.
Man of the Match: Kyle Bartley
Fernandes’ goal was sensational and both De Gea and Johnstone made show-stopping saves, but Allardyce will look at Bartley’s selfless 90 minutes as nothing short of tremendous. Bartley put his body in danger numerous times on the day, organizing the Baggies back line while making four clearances and three interceptions.
West Brom – Manchester United recap
Diagne put the Baggies ahead when he met Connor Gallagher’s cross, pawing past the face and chest of Victor Lindelof to get there.
Gallagher then made a brave block on a vicious attempt from distance as the Baggies showed great early fight.
United miss a chance to equalize in the 26th and West Brom zipped the other way to force a terrific save out of David De Gea.
The Red Devils lived in West Brom’s end as the match approached halftime but the Baggies’ physical approach was both successful and overlooked by the officials in the case of Kyle Bartley’s block of a Marcus Rashford dribble.
The equalizer arrived before the break, Luke Shaw’s cross into traffic shaved out of the air by the left boot of Fernandes for 1-1.
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Pereira had a shot from the left roll through the six absent receiver minutes before United thought it had won a penalty when Harry Maguire fell in a tangle of legs with Semi Ajayi. VAR took the penalty away. Bit of a dive? Looked like it but we’ll wait for confirmation after the game.
Sam Johnstone is West Brom’s other star of the season, the ex-Man United man denying Shaw in the 70th minute before substitute Darnell Furlong blocked McTominay’s bid to score the rebound.
De Gea bailed out Harry Maguire when Diagne worked through the defender, who was either surprised by the striker’s strength or hit the deck to win a foul, and the Spanish keeper leapt high to slap a loose ball away from the menace.
Johnstone then made another great save at the death, getting enough of Maguire’s header to push It off the post for a point.