Will the real Manchester United please stand up? Or at least the Manchester United we all became accustomed to seeing under Sir Alex Ferguson?
In their last five matches across all competitions, the Red Devils have won just once, beating Crystal Palace, 2-0, on February 22. When last we checked in with United, they were losing 2-0 to Olympiakos in the Champions League round of 16.
But a trip to West Brom, currently 17th on the Premier League table, should be the medicine United need to remedy their ailing ways. For the defending champions (who now shockingly find themselves in seventh place), every game is a must-win at this point.
When: Saturday at 7:45 a.m. ET
Saturday at 12:45 p.m. GMT
Where: The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, England
Odds: Manchester United (44.9 percent), West Brom (29.7 percent) and draw (25.4 percent), according to Bloomberg Sports
How bad has Manchester United's season become? David Moyes felt the need to write an open letter to the fans addressing it, that's how bad. Here's a portion of that letter, via David McDonnell of the Mirror:
While I knew that this job would be a challenge when I took it on, the difficult season we have experienced was not something that I envisaged, which I am sure is the case as well for you supporters—and my players, staff and I am desperate to compensate for that.
You are accustomed to seeing a successful Manchester United and the backing you have given the players and I throughout the season has been incredible.
Away from home the travelling fans have remained the best in the country, while at Old Trafford your unwavering faith has been noticeable and hugely welcomed. Supporting your team when they are winning is easy, but much harder when things are not going as well, and the loyalty you have shown us has been magnificent.
Translation: Yes we are underachieving, but please don't give up on me—er, don't give up on us.
Alongside of West Brom's struggles this year, United can take solace from the fact that they've travelled quite well, taking 24 of a possible 42 points on the road in Premier League play. Fresh off the Olympiakos loss, however, that fact may not bring much solace to United fans.
Really, if the team can get Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata all in sync—and can find another player in the midfield to step up next to Michael Carrick—they should be just fine. But until the attacking triumvirate has a better understanding of how to play together, United will remain a far better FIFA 14 team than they are one in real life.
Of course, it isn't just Moyes and United that currently are bathing in scalding hot water. As Iain Macintosh of ESPN writes, West Brom manager Pepe Mel doesn't have much job security these days, either:
Mel is a manager who likes to press high up the pitch, forcing mistakes from his opposition. Albion have been set up to do exactly the opposite, sitting deep and attacking on the counter.
With a summer to work with the players, he might have been able to convert them to his way of thinking. Under pressure from the first day and with time running out, Mel never stood a chance, and that was without the unwanted heirloom of the [Nicolas] Anelka controversy.
You can gauge the reaction of West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace to the new regime’s winless opening six games by the departure of David McDonough, director of technical performance and the man believed to have pushed for the appointment of the Spaniard.
Stripped of his key ally and left isolated in charge of a squad who remain unconvinced by his methods, Mel’s position is now so uncertain that Garlick issued a press statement apparently designed to quell speculation but one that contained not even the slightest hint of a vote of confidence.
Calling this a must-win for both managers might be a bit dramatic. But you can bet if one of these teams loses, that manager won't be jumping to answer his phone after the match.
There is absolutely no reason why United should lose this game. West Brom has won just once in their last 17 Premier League games and are a complete and utter mess this season. If United were to lose this game, the anti-Moyes crowd would have its most convincing argument for sacking him.
Which team wins?
They won't lose. Too much is at stake, including the pride of the players at this point, and Rooney alone could have the type of game that wills the Red Devils to victory. It would be nice to see van Persie regain his form—or Mata look like he understands his role—but at this point, simply winning would be enough.
United gets their win, 3-1.