West Brom vs Manchester United match report: Daley Blind grabs point for United, but away form a problem for Louis van Gaal

West Brom 2 Manchester United 2

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The Independent Online

Two steps forward, one back for Manchester United, who saw the progress made in back-to-back home wins against West Ham and Everton almost undone at the Hawthorns.

The much-maligned Marouane Fellaini stepped out of the shadows to score his first goal for the club he joined for £27.5m more than a year ago, before young West Bromwich striker Saido Berahino threatened to repeat the winning goal he scored at Old Trafford last season – only for Daley Blind salvaged a point for Louis van Gaal’s side with three minutes remaining.

Nonetheless, after six matches on the road without a win, the Dutchman’s difficult start to his tenure as United manager now encompasses the club’s longest run without a Premier League victory win away from home in 18 years.

United answered Van Gaal’s call for a strong finish, their performances so far this season notable too often for fizzling out rather than gaining momentum, but Alan Irvine’s side would have felt hard done-by had they emerged with nothing, having twice punished their opponents for conceding too much space at the back, the first time after only eight minutes when Stéphane Sessègnon gave them the lead.

Falcao was the main notable absence from the United starting line-up, only makingthe bench, as the striker was suffering from jetlag after returning from international duty in South America. Adnan Januzaj took his place, supporting Robin Van Persie from the right flank, with Angel di Maria on the left.

United’s first priority, as they sought to correct the problems they have encountered away from home, was not to concede early. That plan quickly unravelled as Sessègnon opened the scoring in spectacular fashion.

The Benin international finished off a rapid break down the right which was started by Graham Dorrans, whose deft touch to help on a clearance from goalkeeper Boaz Myhill found Andre Wisdom flying down the flank in space. 

With United back peddling, Wisdom delivered his cross early and Sessègnon was on to it in a flash, with no red-shirt close enough to prevent him hitting a venomous shot into the top right-hand corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area.

 

Ander Herrera and Juan Mata worked the ball into the wide positions as United tried to respond and while Di Maria looked dangerous, there was too often a lack of quality in the final delivery. While the home side were being made to work, they remained rock solid at the back.

The remainder of the first half passed with United controlling possession but with Albion looking the more likely to inflict further damage. And they almost did when Dorrans led the way in another fast counter attack that ended with Saido Berahino inches away from getting a touch to a dangerous low cross.

It was a stumble by Joleon Lescott that offered United their best chance of an equaliser before half-time, allowing Van Persie to wriggle away free inside the penalty area and make an angle to shoot.  Craig Dawson blocked the Dutchman’s effort, but then James Morrison’s foul on Herrera just outside the box gave United another opportunity, this time wasted badly as Mata took sent the free kick harmlessly over the bar.

That Van Gaal should want to change something at the start of the second half came as no surprise, although Mata and Januzaj had looked likelier candidates to be hooked than Herrera.

It turned out to be an inspired move by the Dutchman. Fellaini made his presence felt immediately, setting up an attack with an interception from his first meaningful touch. Then came his goal, his first in 24 appearances for United and his first in the Premier League since March 2013.

Fellaini.jpg 

The Belgian collected Di Maria’s right-footed cross from the left on his chest, used his upper body strength to shrug off Lescott’s attentions before producing a wonderful finish from 16 yards, that flew iinto to the roof of the net.

No sooner had things begun to look up for Van Gaal, however, than United paid for the price for another piece of slack defending.

Saido-Berahino-2.jpg
Berahino scored the second for WBA

 

Chris Brunt played a pass in behind a dithering Jones that set Berahino through with a clear run on goal, after being played onside by Rafael. The England Under-21 international, in the best form of his brief career, had plenty of work still to do but kept his composure and carefully steered the ball wide of David de Gea for his sixth league goal of the season.

The goal prompted Van Gaal to introduce Falcao for Mata, almost bringing another instant dividend as the Colombian nodded down a Di Maria cross into the path of Van Persie. Luck was withAlbion this time, with the Dutch striker beating Myhill with a first-time shot but seeing the ball hit the foot of the left-hand post before Januzaj hit the rebound high into the crowd.

But salvation did come, in the 87th minute, in the shape of another first goal for the club, this time from the more recent signing, Blind, who pounced when Rafael’s low cross was only partially cleared, producing a cool finish to slot the ball into the bottom left-hand corner from just inside the box.

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