Manchester United-West Brom Preview
West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United return to Premier League action at The Hawthorns Saturday with both their managers coming under increasing amounts of pressure.
Pepe Mel is still looking for his first win as Albion boss since replacing the sacked Steve Clarke in January. The Baggies have drawn four and lost two of the six matches played under his stewardship.
West Brom (4-13-10) have slipped down to 17th place and are teetering just one point above the relegation places after winning only one of their last 17 league matches.
Baggies centreback Jonas Olsson is optimistic about his club’s survival hopes and insists Albion possess enough top-flight know-how to move clear of relegation trouble during the final 11 games.
"I think the recent performances have been good for the most part," Olsson said. "There are a lot of games where we have played well for one half or for 60 minutes but have switched off a little bit in other spells and got punished. In the Premier League, you can’t do that.
"Experience is going to count for a lot. What we have in this squad is a lot of Premier League experience – and a lot of experience of being in a situation like this. We know what it takes to do well at this level. There is a lot of spirit in the group and we’re all confident we’re going to dig this season out."
David Moyes’ first season as Manchester United manager has so far been disappointing. The Reds Devils have underperformed in the Premier League, failed in domestic cup competitions and now face elimination from the Champions League after losing 2-0 at Olympiakos in the first leg of their round-of-16 matchup last week.
United (13-6-8) are currently seventh in the Premier League – 18 points adrift of leaders Chelsea – and Moyes has faced criticism from all quarters.
It hasn’t helped Moyes that leading striker Robin van Persie has struggled with injuries and failed to reproduce his stunning goal-scoring form from last season.
Another distraction for Moyes was the announcement this week that United club skipper Nemanja Vidic will join Serie A club Inter Milan on a free transfer in the summer.
While the former Everton boss may be feeling the heat, his predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson has offered public support and a call for patience as the Scot continues to transition to Old Trafford.
"They (United) will be all right. It’s early days and there have been a lot of changes," Ferguson said. "He (Moyes) needs time. I was there for 27 years, so with a new manager, it takes time. But they’ll be OK."
West Brom will be missing fullback Billy Jones, who could be out for a month with a hamstring tear, while striker Nicolas Anelka begins a five-match ban imposed by the English Football Association for his ‘quenelle’ gesture.
United forward Javier Hernandez is doubtful with a knee injury, while midfielder Juan Mata, who was cup-tied for the game against Olympiakos, returns to the squad.
Goals from Saido Berahino and Morgan Amalfitano earned West Brom a rare win over United when the Baggies won 2-1 at Old Trafford at the end of September in this season’s reverse fixture. England striker Wayne Rooney replied for the Red Devils.
Ferguson’s final match with United as at The Hawthorns on the last day of the 2012-13 season in which the teams played to a 5-5 draw after Manchester United squandered leads of 3-0 and 5-2.
United’s last league defeat at The Hawthorns was a 2-0 loss in March 1984.