Four Talking Points From West Brom vs Manchester United

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WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United (C) celebrates scoring his sides second goal with his Manchester United team mates during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United at The Hawthorns on December 17, 2016 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

A 2-0 win at the Hawthorns put United on 30 points for the season, right on the heels of the top four. This win continues a run of recent success, and much hope for the rest of the season to come.

Four Talking Points From West Brom vs Manchester United

Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues his fine form

When Manchester United decided to bring the Swede into the club, the move raised questions, primarily due to the wage they’d be paying him. It’s hard to justify paying an ageing forward such a massive wage, but he’s proving to be a smart signing.

Before the match today against West Bromwich Albion, Ibrahimovic scored nine goals in 15 Premier League matches in his first season in England. That’s a solid return, regardless of age, wage, or transfer fee. He’s proven to be the attacking catalyst that United have needed in the past three seasons, and he’s proven to be an invaluable asset to the success of this campaign.

When you add the performance against West Brom into this topic, it only goes to bolster the argument that he was a fantastic addition. He was lethal in front of goal with two shots on target, both slotted past former United ‘keeper Ben Foster. The two goals, which were the only ones in the match, brought his tally up to 11 for the season.

Marcos Rojo should be removed from the starting XI when Smalling and Bailly Return

Despite the fact that he’s played relatively well at centre-back since both Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling picked up injuries, Rojo to be another type of liability. He consistently finds himself going into challenges that pundits and supporters alike argue about whether he should’ve seen red.

Twice in the two games leading up to West Brom Rojo went into two-footed tackles, both with his studs up. He saw yellow for it against Everton, and somehow did not see a straight red against Tottenham. You’d be hard-pressed to find a reason why he didn’t get sent off at least once in those matches, which both proved to be crucial wins.

The two-footed tackles haven’t been his only fault, as he’s regularly being found out of position. At times he seems to be either disjointed from his central partner or lacking positional awareness and/or discipline. Regardless of what the reasoning is, it should be enough to see him take a seat on the substitutes’ bench when Smalling and Bailly are fit and ready to return.

United look confident

The bad thing about saying a club looks confident out on the pitch is that you have no statistical information to back it up other than wins. Getting the three points consistently is massive for United to keep pace with the top four, and they look confident in doing just that.

They look calm and composed in possession, dangerous in the attacking third, and strong enough at the back not to concede to weaker sides. The back line will be even stronger upon the return of the likes of Smalling and Bailly, which would point to the current position in the table being an unlikely finishing point for the Red Devils this season.

Should Fellaini be sold?

Marouane Fellaini is a bit of a contentious player amongst the supporters. The supporters who like him appreciate his ability to hold up the ball, stay composed in possession, and his ability to win aerial duels on a regular basis. There are some complaints that should be heard about the big Belgian though.

The first complaint is that Fellaini is too conservative in possession, opting to make a square or drop pass a vast majority of the time. The second is that he gives away poor fouls in even worse areas of the pitch, leaving the team to clean up his messes. The last one is that he doesn’t contribute to the attacking portion of the match, which could go hand-in-hand with the first point as well.

To speak on these points you need to better understand what the role Fellaini plays at the club is: a deep lying, ball-winning midfielder. The expectation that he is going to win a ball and immediately play it forward for quick, attacking-style football is indicative of what United supporters are used to from the past. Fellaini just isn’t that type of player, and he likely never will be.

It is common rhetoric that Fellaini gives away too many fouls. Despite this, there are multiple players who foul at a higher frequency than him (1.7 fouls per match). These players include fan-favourite Ander Herrera (1.8 fouls per match), Ibrahimovic, and Paul Pogba (both at 2.3 fouls per match).

Nevertheless, it must be said that Fellaini is, even for a defensive midfielder, far too conservative for the most part. He is a useful option off the bench, however, and it’s unlikely that he’d go for anything significant in the transfer market. It would be far more prudent, therefore, for him to see his contract out.

The Outlook of Things

Moving forward, United should feel very comfortable with the way they are playing. With the returns of both Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly imminent, along with the fact that Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan won’t be out for too long, the depth is there to really challenge for a top four position in the final table. The players now seem to be on the same page as one another, and with the system of play Mourinho has set in, the sky is the limit and the future is a bright one in the red side of Manchester.

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