Manchester United signed off the year in style when they won a hard fought contest against a stern West Brom side and eventually won the game 2-0 thanks to goals from Gareth McAuley(O.G) and a late strike from Robin Van Persie who came off the bench.
First Half :
Both sides made several changes and had key players missing, and even with Wayne Rooney unavailable United were able to leave Robin van Persie on the bench and let Danny Welbeck lead the line.
United survived a penalty scare in the opening minutes. The call was a correct one from Jon Cross when Chris Smalling made no contact with the ball when he brought down Shane Long in the area, the West Brom striker had also given up on possession in favor of leaning into his opponent.
After making a habit of going a goal down most of the season, Manchester United found themselves leading for a change early in the game just after nine minutes when McAuley diverted Ashley Young’s dive across goal through the legs of his own goalkeeper to give the league leaders an early lead. The hosts dominated the possession throughout the half and Vidic was wide with a couple of headers and Gabriel Tamas turned away Michael Carrick’s goal bound shot.
The nearest United went to doubling their lead was when Kagawa, who played well in his first game for two months, set up Young on the half hour. His perfectly weighted pass down the right wing invited an Antonio Valencia cross from which Young brought a first class save from Ben Foster.
Apart from one promising run from Peter Odemwingie, the visitors’ only threats were a couple of free kicks at the end of the first half, both of which were scrambled away.
Second Half :
West Brom started the second half completely different from their first half performance. After a largely anonymous opening 45 minutes, Chris Brunt combined well with Shane Long and Billy Jones before testing David De Gea from 30 yards within the opening five minutes.
Brunt then saw a better effort blocked by Patrice Evra, as United’s attempts to score a second descended into farce.
There was a period of nervousness around Old Trafford then when West Brom were continuously pressing for the equalizer and heavy rain was continuing to pour down and United started to get stuck.
Young completely miss kicked when Valencia’s cross presented a golden opportunity on the hour mark. This offered the Baggies more belief of going and snatching that equalizer.
Changes were made by both teams which saw Van Persie come on for United while Morrison and Lukaku came on for West Brom.
Though Welbeck had lesser shots than his West Brom compatriot Peter Odemwingie, Welbeck kept the opposite keeper busy by shooting 2 of his 3 goals on target unlike the West brom winger who did not force even one save from De Gea.
Another big difference in the game was between the keepers. Though Ben Foster made a couple of important saves, the fact that he actually had to make saves unlike De Gea was the deciding factor in the match.
De Gea did not have to make even one save in the game as United’s improved defence spearheaded by Vidic saw all shots of West Brom which were on target blocked.
Finally, Van Persie saw a shot saved before the end and failed to slip Welbeck through on goal. After going almost all the attacking in the second half West Brom could consider themselves unlucky to leave empty handed when Van Persie finally added a second, making space for a left foot curler from the edge of the area after Paul Scholes had seen a shot blocked.
Though the scoreline was harsh on West Brom as they would have felt that they deserved at least one point, they will certainly take many positives from the match. But the bottom line is that United end the year on a high 7 points clear from their neighbors Man City who are in second place.