West Brom-Manchester United Preview
It's not every day that one can say mighty Manchester United are in a scoring funk, but that's exactly what has transpired for Louis van Gaal's Red Devils in league play.
The club has failed to find the back of the net in each of their past two Premier League fixtures and are aiming to stop the rot Saturday against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford.
The last two matches have produced scoreless draws against Manchester City and Crystal Palace, but the side did get a bit of its trademark swagger back in midweek with a Champions League group stage win over CSKA Moscow via a 79th-minute strike from captain Wayne Rooney.
Despite the scoring woes, the defence has been stout for van Gaal. The Red Devils lead the Premier League with seven clean sheets, have conceded a league-low one goal on home soil and have secured clean sheets in four of their five league matches at The Theatre of Dreams.
The Reds certainly know how to knock the ball about with some flair in the attacking third and are averaging a Premier League-high 567 passes. Their 144 passes per match in the final third are third-highest in the league. But they'll need to get more shots on target in order to end their scoring struggles. United have attempted just 110 shots, better than only West Brom (109).
"Tony Pulis has made them very solid and they don't concede many goals, so we're going to have to break them down," said United defender Chris Smalling. "If we can get an early goal, I think you may see the floodgates open."
Antonio Valencia and James Wilson are unlikely to play for United - Valencia is still struggling with a foot injury suffered against City, while Wilson is out due to a knock he picked up against Middlesbrough last week.
West Brom come into the contest aiming for a third win in their last four league matches following a 3-2 loss to surging Leicester City. Salomon Rondon staked the Baggies to a lead on the half-hour, but Rickie Lambert's late consolation from the spot was the only other goal West Brom was able to find.
Old Trafford has often proved a daunting venue for visiting squads, but the Baggies have proven a recent exception - they've won their last two trips to the red side of Manchester and are trying to become only the second team in the Premier League era to win three straight at Old Trafford along with Manchester City (2011-14).
West Brom have also done remarkably well on their travels this season - having taken 10 points in their five away matches this season. Only Arsenal, West Ham and Leicester have more points away from home, and they've all played six away games. The Baggies have also kept four clean sheets in their last five away fixtures overall.
Despite having moved on from Manchester United, West Brom midfielder Darren Fletcher and defender Jonny Evans maintain their respect for their former club's fans ahead of Saturday's clash.
"I can't speak highly enough of the United away fans," Fletcher said. "They're special -- a real good bunch who sing relentlessly, support the team, have great passion and are die-hard fans. It had been a while since I'd done that as a Celtic supporter and I turned into a fan again. Without fans there is no football."
West Brom took four points off United last season, including a 1-0 victory in May in last season's corresponding fixture on Jonas Olsson's goal just after the hour mark. The sides drew 2-2 at The Hawthorns on Oct. 20, 2014, with United twice overturning one-goal deficits to secure a point.