Teams: West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United Venue: The Hawthorns Competition: Premier League Last Match: Man United 3 – 2 Man City Kick Off: 16 00 on TV on Sky Sports HD
Following United’s emphatic second half at Wembley last Sunday, United start their Premier League defence against an improving West Brom side today.
After an understandably nervous performance against Chelsea, David De Gea is expected to retain his place against West Brom- who will surely be tempted to test him from distance, having seen Edin Dzeko’s effort last week.
In the full-back areas, Smalling will almost certainly find himself at right-back for the third match in a row after Rafael dislocated his shoulder during the week. On the opposite side of a pitch, Patrice Evra is a doubt but considering his imperious fitness record at Old Trafford I am confident he will play.
In midfield, Antonio Valencia is still short of match fitness but that will not be a worry for Sir Alex who has Nani in fine form at the moment. More centrally, Carrick is a doubt but nearly everyone else is available, although he is the only naturally deep-lying midfielder we have to choose from considering Darren Fletcher’s continued absence.
Interestingly, it remains to be seen whether Tom Cleverley has risen above Anderson in the pecking order, following his recent England call-up; although Giggs may start the match ahead of both of them.
Up front, Wayne Rooney is likely to be partnered by either Danny Welbeck or Dimitar Berbatov- who seem to be the third and fourth choice strikers behind Hernandez and Rooney. Considering our poor away record last season, Sir Alex may opt for a more agile line up and choose Welbeck but he may feel that Ashley Young’s arrival compensates for Berbatov’s lack of counter-attacking threat.
Predicted Line Up
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Key Clash- Ben Foster v Wayne Rooney
Following his loan move from Birmingham City to West Brom (where he is replacing Scott Carson), Foster will be keen to show Sir Alex what he is missing as he looks down the pitch and sees David De Gea making his first Premier League start.
Similarly, Rooney will be keen to open his Premier League account as soon as possible after an indifferent season last time round. Seemingly in great shape, after an excellent pre-season, he will certainly test Foster to the best of his abilities.
One To Watch- Shane Long
Making his debut as West Brom’s record signing at a tidy £6.5 million, the Irish international striker will be keen to make an impression in Peter Odemwinge’s absence.
Having only scored 29 goals in his previous 150 club appearances, Shane had a goal-scoring epiphany last season and finished the campaign with 28 goals in 58 matches for club and country- a run which saw Reading chairman John Madejski value him at £20m, after their play-off final defeat to Swansea!
Despite being just short of 6ft tall, Long is a strong forward who is equally proficient at holding the ball up for others as he is running in behind, having shown his strength during his hurling years in Ireland. Similar to, his former Reading team-mate, Kevin Doyle in many respects, the Irishman certainly has the ability to succeed as a top-class forward.
Referee- Mike Jones
Safe, solid and a Cheshire lad!
My Prediction- West Brom 1 – 3 Man United
Despite the fact we were given a very tough game on our last visit to The Hawthorns, I am confident about this fixture because of United’s great pre-season form and the Baggies vulnerable defence.
The crowd will most certainly be behind the home team but if Sir Alex’s men can whether the initial storm then I am sure that our side has enough quality to take the three points and start the new Premier League season on the front foot.