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December 29, 2012
• Old Trafford, Manchester
Referee: J. Moss
• Attendance: 75595
G. McAuley 9' (own goal)
R. van Persie 90'+
West Bromwich Albion
However, if the first was fortunate, then the second goal was sheer class. Van Persie did what he does best, cutting in from the right to whip in a shot with his left, and United deserve the points today. I've been Tom J Doyle, thank you for joining us. Stick with Goal.com for more match reaction from Old Trafford and all around the Premier League.
Steve Clarke will be buoyed by the way in which his side battled back, but will be disappointed by his side's lack of confidence against a weakened United side. The first goal will be particularly frustrating for him as well, as a catalogue of mistakes led to McAuley putting into his own net.
Well, it wasn't a classic, but Sir Alex Ferguson will probably be pleased that Manchester United remembered how to keep a clean sheet with a 2-0 victory over West Brom. It looked as though the Red Devils would be out of sight after a dominant first-half display, but the Baggies battled back well in the second half, only to be put to the sword by the imperious Robin van Persie.
90' + 3'
West Brom still search for a consolation goal but the ball runs out for a goal kick...and that's it! United get the points today.
90' + 1'
Assist Antonio Valencia
90' + 1'
Goal Robin van Persie
VAN PERSIE SEALS IT!!! Foster has been brilliant today, but he has no chance here as the Manchester United striker makes space and fires in a delicious curling effort high into the net from 20 yards. Great goal, and that'll be it.
Stunning save from Foster! Valencia drives down the right and shimmies past a challenge before teeing up Welbeck, who curls an effort towards the back post. The Baggies keeper makes a fingertip save to deny the striker yet again.
Two minutes to play plus injury time here - could United do the unthinkable and actually keep a clean sheet? Surely not...
Speak of the devil - Vidic almost puts it into his own net! Odemwingie shoots from outside the box on the right, and the defender can only get a flick on the ball, which spins wide of De Gea's post. That could so easily have ended up as an equaliser for the visitors.
Vidic is on hand again here to get out to deny Lukaku on the penalty spot. The captain has turned in a great performance today, blocking a number of chances.
Welbeck is denied by a great last-ditch tackle! Van Persie fed the striker, and just as he shaped to finish the game, a West Brom defender denied him with a sliding tackle. Risky challenge, but a vital one.
Paul Scholes is on for Cleverley to tighten up possession in the middle for the hosts - and Carrick almost sees a deflected cross loop in past Foster! The keeper was grateful as the ball span up and away from the goal there.
Foster denies Van Persie! Evra found the striker in behind the Baggies defence with a fine pass, but the 29-year-old could only find a finish against the keeper's legs. Great work again by Foster to keep it to a single goal.
Welbeck wants a free kick as he goes round Tamas down the right wing, but referee Moss doesn't give it, much to Ferguson's annoyance in the dugout.
United venture forward now and Young twists and turns before driving straight at Foster. Ferguson will be furious his side have not built on a fine opening, but a rare clean sheet would be welcome today.
The away side are really ramping up the pressure now, and Lukaku is simply bullying his way past United's defenders at the moment. He shoves Evans off the ball before crossing, but can't find a team-mate.
The Baggies look much more confident with Lukaku as a central figure to aim for, while Van Persie has seen almost none of the ball since his introduction. There is real belief in the visitors' attacking play now.
West Brom hit the bar! The ball comes in and a Baggies player crashes the ball off of the woodwork - but Jon Moss blows his whistle for a foul on Smalling. This game is heating up now!
Evans feels he was fouled by Dorrans as he goes down easily after conceding a corner, but it's not given. Can West Brom make something of this?
Clarke has rolled the dice too by bringing off the ineffective Rosenberg for the powerful Lukaku, and the striker almost sets up Odemwingie immediately before the good pass is blocked out for a corner.
Robin van Persie
Ferguson feels it's finally time to try and make the points safe by bringing on Van Persie for the tiring Kagawa. Can the Dutch striker find a goal to close the game out?
Valencia shows the positive side of his game here as he drives an effort narrowly over Foster's bar from a tight angle after being fed by Welbeck.
Yellow Card Antonio Valencia
Valencia is booked for a cynical hack on Odemwingie as the West Brom forward looks to break down the left wing. The United winger was lucky to escape a red card against Newcastle, and that was a definite caution.
The ball falls to Young in the West Brom penalty area...and he completely misses his shot! A few in the ground were expecting a goal there - a tad embarrassing for Young really.
Evra makes an important block from Dorrans' strong drive on the edge of the area following Odemwingie's pull-back after he ghosted past Smalling on the left. Better from the Baggies, but they need to start taking their chances.
Evans is bleeding from the mouth after taking a whack at the last corner, and may need to go off for treatment. Steve Clarke will be happier with the improved second-half display, but West Brom have been extremely poor against a weakened United side today.
Valencia is alone in the box and lines up a shot, which is deflected wide for a corner. The Baggies can't clear it, Vidic (for some reason) tries to dribble through the visitors' defence, and Valencia has another shot deflected wide.
This is much better from West Brom, who are showing some attacking intent - but Brunt picks up the ball from 30 yards and shanks it high and very, very wide. Still, at least they're not camped in their own half any more.
Long wins yet another free kick from Evans here - and West Brom go close! Brunt whipped the ball in from the right, Tamas was all alone at the back post, but he mistimed the header and a golden chance goes begging for the Baggies.
Now it's West Brom's turn to break with Dorrans on the right wing, and the ball is worked to Brunt in the centre, who absolutely hammers a strike at goal from 35 yards - but De Gea is grateful the shot is straight at him.
United are hunting a second - Cleverley sees a shot deflected out, while Kagawa does well to find space in the box before he too sees a shot blocked before it reaches Foster. They're stepping up the pressure now.
Welbeck works the ball from left to right and finds Valencia - the England striker has shown real desire today, but hasn't quite found the space to fashion any real chances for himself.
We're back underway at Old Trafford - with City 2-1 up at Norwich but down to 10 men with Samir Nasri being sent off, this could yet be another important day in the Premier League title race.
Clarke has Morrison and Lukaku on the bench, who could well make the difference for the visitors. They'll need to be more courageous with the ball in the second 45 minutes, that's for sure.
Shinji Kagawa has been impressive on his return to the United starting XI, but it'll be interesting to see how long the score stays at 1-0 before Ferguson looks to either Van Persie or Chicharito to make the result safe.
So, United have been completely dominant here but they only have one goal to show for it. Ferguson will be keen for his team to push on for a victory, but Clarke will feel his side are still in it with an encouraging end to the half. And to be honest, they can't really be any worse than they were just now.
45' + 1'
What was Brunt thinking?! He simply steps up and punts the ball at United's massive wall - and that's half-time!
It's much better, but the ball is cleared well by Vidic before it runs through to De Gea - and Cleverley gives away a foul right on the edge of the area. A great chance for the visitors...
With a minute of the half to play, Evans gives away a free kick for a push on Long. Can Brunt put in a better delivery from the free kick on the right wing here?
How are United not 2-0 up? Foster gets lucky here as he controls a back-pass from McAuley, but realises too late that Welbeck is fast-approaching, and the keeper's desperate clearance cannons off the striker's chest and just wide of the goal. Big let-off for the Baggies.
Peter Odemwingie does well to beat two United players after cutting in from the left, but drags his low shot wide of De Gea's right-hand post. That's more adventurous from the forward, but we'll need to see a lot more of it in the second half.
Valencia has the ball in the box on the right, and he waits, and waits, and waits for a run that doesn't come, and his cross is cleared. Maybe the movement of Van Persie would have seen United out of sight if he had started?
Vidic gets his head to the following corner, but can only nod wide at the back post. It seems as though everybody in this United side wants a goal.
Cleverley almost feeds Kagawa with a delicious through-ball, but Tamas does well to slide the ball behind for a corner. The Japanese playmaker is looking in fine form on his return, and Cleverley seems to be enjoying linking up with him.
Foster saves West Brom again! There's confusion in the box from the resulting corner and the visitors can't clear. The ball falls to Carrick who fizzes in a low effort from 10 yards, but the keeper gets down well to save with a foot. The former United player is keeping his side in it at the moment.
What a save from Foster! The Baggies keeper makes a truly world-class save as Young drove a brilliant half-volley at goal following fine work from Kagawa to release Welbeck down the wing. He saw it late but managed to tip the ball onto the bar and over - astounding.
Brunt takes a truly shocking free kick, which is headed away by the first man for United. Really, really poor when what is needed now is a calm head and a good delivery.
Now then, danger for the hosts as West Brom have a free kick on the right-hand side of the penalty area...
Kagawa switches the ball wide to Welbeck, who drives in from the left and tries to bend in an effort to the far corner. The ball deflects off a defender's head to Young, who can only head the ball over the bar. Difficult chance, but still a chance.
West Brom have players in United's box! They can't actually get the ball into the box after winning a throw deep in United's half, but it's more promising.
More neat build-up play from Valencia and Kagawa almost unlocks the Baggies defence, but Welbeck is muscled out in the middle. Clarke's side are seeing little of the ball, but they've done well to snuff out any United chances since the goal.
Long gets down the wing in a rare Baggies attack, but his cross dribbles its way to David de Gea, with no team-mates in sight. It'll all be in vain if the visiting side don't support each other when they do actually get hold of the ball.
Welbeck handles on the edge of the West Brom box and it's given as a free kick - but the real worry for Clarke will be how easy it was for Michael Carrick to just knock a pass up to the striker. He'll be eager for his players to close up the space in the middle and put more pressure on the England midfielder.
Now the hosts want a penalty as Kagawa's cross deflects off of a Baggies arm from close range, but referee Jon Moss is never going to give a decision from that close.
Welbeck is so close to adding a second for United...and he's just had another good chance! The striker was inches away from tapping in a great long ball with Foster committed, and he then fashioned space on the edge of the box 15 seconds later, but his shot was deflected into the keeper's arms.
The home side are dominating possession completely, with 80% of the ball. Can the visitors work their way back into this tie?
United are looking dangerous every time they go forward here, and Ferguson will want his side to kill this one off early with West Brom looking short of confidence at the back.
Own Goal Gareth McAuley
UNITED LEAD!!! It's a fortunate one for the hosts as Gareth McAuley slices the ball into Ben Foster's net after a near-post cross from Ashley Young. It was good work from the winger who combined well with Kagawa on the wing, but Steve Clarke will be furious his side could not clear the ball before allowing Young to force the error.
Antonio Valencia wins a corner, which Nemanja Vidic gets up to meet but powers a header over the bar. It's good to see the dominant Serbian back again for the hosts. Meanwhile, City have gone 2-0 up at Norwich with Dzeko grabbing his second.
Ooh, Chris Smalling is really lucky he hasn't given away a penalty here. The defender and Long chase the ball, and although it's rolling out for a goal kick, the youngster slides in, gets all of the man and none of the ball. The referee isn't convinced though, and United survive that one.
News is coming through that Edin Dzeko has put Manchester City 1-0 at Norwich in the first minute - that will put a little more pressure on Ferguson's men if the score stays the same at Carrow Raod.
Goal-hungry Patrice Evra gets down the left and puts a good ball into the centre, but he can't quite find a team-mate and the Baggies clear the danger.
We're underway at Old Trafford, with West Brom passing the ball around confidently - expect to hear that a few more times this afternoon. Liam Ridgewell punts a speculative cross out for a goal kick here though.
The teams are out and we're almost ready to go here. There could well be a few goals today, so bear with me if it gets a little hectic. Let's just hope it's another fantastic Premier League game!
United have won their last six at home, and Ferguson will be in no mood to allow his side to let such a strong lead slip as they did last season. West Brom have had a sensational start to the season though, and could go fourth with a win today.
Steve Clarke has had to make seven changes to his team today with a number of player out through injury and illness. Markus Rosenberg gets a rare start for the Baggies, and he'll be hoping to find the home defence in a similarly generous mood to when they shipped three goals against Newcastle.
Well, Ferguson has thrown the cat among the pigeons here by resting Robin van Persie and Chicharito, with Danny Welbeck up front supported by the returning Shinji Kagawa. There's plenty of attacking talent still on the pitch for United, but it's an interesting combination to say the least.
West Brom: Foster; Jones, McAuley, Tamas, Ridgewell; Thorne, Dorrans; Odemwingie, Brunt, Long; Rosenberg. Subs: Myhill, Morrison, Jara, Lukaku, Dawson, Fortune, El Ghassay.
The team news is in...Manchester United: De Gea; Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Young; Kagawa; Welbeck. Subs: Van Persie, Ferdinand, Giggs, Büttner, Lindegaard, Chicharito, Scholes.
Good afternoon - I'm Tom J Doyle, and welcome to the Goal.com LIVE commentary of Manchester United - West Brom at Old Trafford. Chicharito gave Sir Alex Ferguson a late Christmas present by netting an injury-time winner against Newcastle on Boxing Day to open up a seven-point gap between themselves and second-placed Manchester City. They'll be hoping to extend that lead today, but Steve Clarke's men may fancy their chances against a leaky home defence.
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