West Bromwich vs. Manchester United: 6 Things We Learned
David Moyes picked a starting line-up for Manchester United's trip against West Brom that most fans were delighted with, judging by the reaction on Twitter.
Starting Juan Mata, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Adnan Januzaj was very pleasing to see. These are United's top attacking players and it gave United their best possible chance of scoring goals and securing a needed three points.
To go on to win 3-0 was a great result for the champions. They haven't won by a three-goal margin since their victory over Aston Villa back in December, so will hope this afternoon's result is the start of some good form.
But what did we learn from this win?
Rafael Da Silva Has a United Future
recently reported that Moyes was keen to sell the Brazilian, but based on today's performance, that would be a very hasty decision from the manager.
Rafael had so much room on the right wing thanks to the front four attacking players keeping the West Brom defence busy. Aside from being inches away from scoring himself, with Foster getting his fingertips to a header, he played a direct role in the opening two goals.
It was Rafael who won the free-kick for United's first goal, with his quick footwork proving too much for the WBA defence.
With United searching for a second goal, it was Rafael who delivered an inch-perfect cross into the box for Rooney to head in.
It wasn't just offensively where he strived though, but defensively too, with him attempting and winning more tackles than any player on the pitch, according to FourFourTwo Stats Zone.
Jones and Smalling Are the Future?
Nemanja Vidic, United's captain, started today's game on the bench, after agreeing a deal with Inter Milan earlier this week.
Moyes instead started Phil Jones and Chris Smalling at the centre of defence, with both of them putting in a good shift. Jones has regularly been played in midfield, but he has made no secret of the fact he prefers playing in defence.
Jones scored the opening goal for United and put himself about defensively, making several well-timed challenges. Smalling also did his fair share of work too and cleared the ball from danger more often than any player on the pitch, according to FourFourTwo Stats Zone.
Are these two United's replacement for Rio Ferdinand and Vidic? Jonny Evans might have something to say about that when he returns from injury though, but on today's viewing, these two young defenders did very well.
Van Persie Has a Bad Temper
Robin van Persie played like someone who was keen to miss United's next game against Liverpool, with him starting the second half raging. With less than five minutes gone, he was booked for a challenge from behind on Morgan Amalfitano.
Five minutes later, Van Persie slid in on Steven Reid and left the West Brom players incensed when he wasn't shown a second yellow. Replays showed that Van Persie actually got the ball and didn't make any contact with the player with his boot or studs, but it was that sort of reckless behaviour that likely lead to him being subbed off 10 minutes later.
Moyes patted Van Persie on the back as he came to the bench, but the Dutchman didn't look too impressed. It was a sensible decision to bring him off though and was totally vindicated by his replacement, Danny Welbeck, scoring United's third goal.
Rooney Started Playing When Van Persie Went off
Rooney seemingly came to life after Van Persie's substitution, taking just five minutes to put United 2-0 up. He made no mistake from a few yards out after getting in a great position to get on the end of Rafael's cross.
Ten minutes later, he played in a great ball to Danny Welbeck, but unfortunately the young striker couldn't get his shot on target. A few minutes later, they had another go, this time with Rooney playing Welbeck in on the left, and this time he found the back of the net.
Rooney now has 21 goals and assists in 21 starts.
Dubious Decisions Don't Have to Cost You
Just before half-time, Van Persie looked certain to put United 2-0 up, after Ben Foster came rushing out his penalty area. Foster attempted to kick the ball but then handled it, blocking the ball from reaching the Dutchman, who then had an empty net to aim at.
Neither the referee nor assistant referee seemed to notice though, with BT Sport reporting that Mike Dean, the fourth official, claimed that the handball wasn't deliberate. What could have very easily been a straight red card for Foster or another goal for United resulted in no advantage for them.
If a defender was standing on the goal line and stopped the ball from crossing the line in the same way, it would be interesting to see how many referees wouldn't immediately award a penalty.
Still, whilst this dubious decision went against United, as have plenty of others this season, this time they didn't allow for it to cost them the result.
Fellaini Looking the Part
Marouane Fellaini put in another good shift this afternoon, which is vital when Moyes is employing four attacking players in front of the Belgian. United's ability to play attacking football relies on Fellaini playing well defensively, which is why the reds did so well today.
According to FourFourTwo Stat Zone, nobody completed more passes than Fellaini this afternoon, or made more interceptions, or won more aerial duels. Only one player won more tackles and made more clearances too.