Match Report: Sir Alex Ferguson revels in the routine after wild week

Manchester United 2 West Bromwich Albion 0

Old Trafford

Once he had left Alan Pardew metaphorically bloodied and broken, Sir Alex Ferguson finished his press conference by making an impassioned plea for some duller football.

However entertaining the 4-3s and the 3-2s had been, he needed them to stop, for his own sake and Manchester United’s.

This was a more routine scoreline but it was in its own ways as skittish and unconvincing as the Boxing Day victory when Ferguson harangued the match officials and then eviscerate Pardew when the Newcastle manager had questioned why the godfather of the Premier League had not been invited to spend more time in the directors box. Only when Robin van Persie scored his 33rd and last goal of the year, curling a delicious shot past Ben Foster, was the stadium able to relax. “They are a tough, stubborn team,” Ferguson said of West Bromwich Albion, who had the bulk of possession in the second half but who did not possess a Van Persie.

Ferguson insisted he would not be spending anything in the January transfer window because his squad was “as good as any I have had in my time at Old Trafford”. That may be a questionable statement given that this was only their third clean sheet of the season. However, it is hard to argue that many of his forwards have had quite the impact of the artists’ son from Rotterdam. Here he produced what his parents would recognise as a true cameo.

It was wishful thinking to imagine Ferguson would repeat the histrionics which had scarred a Boxing Day. He is an assassin who selects his target, carries out his hit and moves on.

Perhaps because of the endless rain, perhaps because he recognised this might be an afternoon for a low profile, Ferguson wrapped himself in his dug-out until 10 minutes from the end of a game that West Brom might have snatched something from had they worked David De Gea harder.

He slipped as he mounted the bank to join his assistant, Mike Phelan, protested why a foul on Danny Welbeck had not been given and paced his technical area like a headmaster invigilating an exam. It was one his boys passed, if not by very much.

The referee was Jon Moss, a 32-year-old from Sunderland who was making his first professional visit to Old Trafford. “He continues to go about his season in a quiet manner with little controversy,” the one-time referee, Graham Poll, had written in his Saturday column. “I expect that to continue as the home manager should be on his best behaviour.” Poll was proved correct.

The West Brom manager, Steve Clarke, had thought he might leave Old Trafford with something. He did not, although it went better than his last match as a manager here when he took charge of a Newcastle side that had been wrecked by a civil war between Alan Shearer and Ruud Gullit. It was 13 years ago and he had lost 5-1.

Now, they were a goal down before 10 minutes had counted down on Old Trafford’s thin scoreboard. Shinji Kagawa was given his first start since breaking down with a knee injury more than two months ago. He began brightly and it was his pass that produced the breakthrough. Graham Dorrans attempted to intercept it but steered the ball straight to Ashley Young. Gareth McAuley stuck out his own leg to cut out the low cross that followed but deflected it between his keeper and Foster’s near post.

If things had run differently, Foster might have become Manchester United’s goalkeeper for the long term. He proved this ability by tipping a shot delivered at furious speed on the half-volley by Young on to the bar and into the Stretford End.

The crowd scented a rout that never arrived and those from the Midlands began singing: “We’re going to win 5-3”, a reference to their last victory at Old Trafford in December 1978 which since it fell slap in the middle of a journalists’ strike made fewer headlines than it might.

The pitch looked like something left over from the Winter of Discontent. Manchester is always wet but over Christmas it had been drowning.

It was not quite like the Baseball Ground under Brian Clough but it cut up badly and hampered everybody. In the second half, Gabriel Tamas made two attempts to make a routine clearance and connected with neither. United seemed to cope better but when Antonio Valencia delivered a low cross to Young’s feet, the shot met only sodden air.

Man United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Cleverley (Scholes, 82), Carrick; Valencia, Kagawa (Van Persie, 65), Young; Welbeck.

WBA (4-4-1-1): Foster; Jones, McAuley, Tamas, Ridgewell; Thorne, Brunt (Morrison, 75), Rosenberg (Lukaku, 67), Dorrans (Fortune, 83); Odemwingie; Long.

Referee: Jon Moss.

Man of the match: Cleverley (Man United).

Match rating: 6/10

News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition