Robin van Persie missed a penalty as West Bromwich Albion defeated Manchester United 1-0 this evening thanks to a Chris Brunt strike.
As expected, fans inside Old Trafford rose in the 5th minute to applaud and chant Rio Ferdinand’s name in memory of his late wife. On the pitch, van Persie looked sharp early on and came close to opening the scoring on a few occasions. It was an encouraging start but West Brom’s organised defence frustrated United and they went in at half-time with the score goalless.
United continued their lifeless display after the restart and were eventually punished when Brunt smashed in a free-kick with 63 minutes played. The strike took a big deflection off Wayne Rooney but it was no less than United deserved. However, they were given a lifeline when Saido Berahino was adjudged to have handled in the box. Unfortunately for United, van Persie missed the subsequent penalty.
A wonderful show of support from both sets of fans saw them applaud and chant the name of Rio Ferdinand in the fifth minute of the match in remembrance of his late wife Rebecca. It was an incredibly touching moment and one that made us very proud. May she rest in peace.
The Dutchman was handed a starring role up front by Louis van Gaal following a brace for the U21s earlier this week and he looked menacing during the opening exchanges. First of all, van Persie’s nice turn and shot stung the hands of Boaz Myhill before he guided Ashley Young’s cut-back wide of the post.
However, his penalty miss could prove incredibly costly at the end of the campaign. There have been murmurs that van Gaal is unconvinced of van Persie’s long-term future at United and he certainly would have incurred the wrath of the 63-year-old following the fixture.
If United harbour ambitions of challenging for the Premier League and Champions League next season, they simply cannot afford to have Antonio Valencia playing at right-back every week. Clumsy and ineffectual, Valencia gave away a number of naive fouls and regularly missed his teammates when crossing into the box.
It begs the question as to why Rafael wasn’t used by van Gaal when he was fit earlier in the campaign. Nathaniel Clyne has been strongly linked with a move to United and his arrival can’t come soon enough.
Boring and predictable play
It looked like United had turned a corner during a recent six-game winning streak, which included victories over the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City. Van Gaal’s side were full of confidence and looked a threat whenever they went forward.
Fans were hoping that last weekend’s disappointing performance against Everton was just a blip but United produced more of the same on Saturday. For all their possession, creating chances was again a huge problem. United simply couldn’t get going in the face of a well disciplined defence. It is a worrying trend and one they will need to stamp out heading into next season.
United are well and truly back in the rat race
The result left United four points ahead of fifth-placed Liverpool with three games left to play between now and the end of the season. One of those is against Arsenal while United also have to contend with a tricky trip to Crystal Palace.
United looked to have their top four spot sown up following the 4-2 win over City but three losses on the trot have left Champions League qualification far from certain.