Manchester United will play host to West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on Saturday in a fixture which has given fans some very lasting memories in recent years.
Sir Alex Ferguson was denied victory in his 1,500th and final game in charge of United against West Brom in 2013 as Romelu Lukaku’s second half hat-trick held United to a 5-5 draw. Despite the result, it was an exciting game featuring some brilliant individual performances. While Saturday’s clash is unlikely to go the same way, fans can still expect a gripping game.
Since taking charge at West Brom, Tony Pulis has guided the Baggies from one point off the relegation zone to a healthy 37 points. His team now lie in 13th place with survival in the Premier League all but guaranteed.
United will be eager to bounce back from back-to-back losses against Chelsea and Everton but must be wary of youngster Saido Berahino, whose 18 goals in all competitions demonstrate his undoubted ability.
United will also welcome back Darren Fletcher to Old Trafford, who will play his first game against the club since his departure in January. There will inevitably be a sense of nostalgia surrounding the occasion but van Gaal will warn his side to keep their concentration as they bid to maintain their grip on the top four.
The Dutchman will look to take advantage of West Brom’s leaky defence, which has so far conceded 46 goals this term. United’s tempo and pressing will likely be key throughout the game as Pulis’ teams are notoriously difficult to break down. United certainly possess the attacking talent to do just that, although they may miss Wayne Rooney up top after he hobbled off in a 3-0 defeat against Everton last time out.
Whatever happens, both teams have everything to play for. Anything less than a win would be a disaster for United but some of their best performances this season have come at Old Trafford. If van Gaal exorcises the demons that contributed to the disappointing result against Everton, United should be able to secure the three points.