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Date: 31st December 2010 at 12:27 pm
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Can Nani fire United to their second away win of the season?

Can Nani fire United to their second away win of the season?

The term ‘must-win game’ is bandied about almost frequently nowadays and only seems to be valid until the game isn’t actually won. Take United’s home game against West Brom earlier in the season- that was seen as must win until The Reds drew.

Entering that game United had drawn three of their last four league games, the only win coming against Liverpool which is now no longer anything to shout about. A win at home to West Brom was seen as a must, but in reality while it was a disappointing result it didn’t matter as much as some, including myself if I’m totally honest, thought at the time.

United’s trip to the Hawthorns has already been labelled a ‘must-win’ in certain quarters as one win in eight away games has left Sir Alex’s men looking distinctly unimpressive on the road. Yet for all the anger felt at so many dropped points- particularly with no less than three last minute equalisers being scored against United, the fact remains that the Reds are still in a superb position in the league-top with two games in hand.

The main problem with this statistic is the fact that if we’re totally honest, part of the reason United are top is because the rest of the top teams have been consistently poor. Chelsea have lost half as many games as they’ve won, Arsenal have lost a third of their home games, while City have managed only half as many goals at home as United have in the same amount of games- dropping 12 points in the process, not really the sort of return usually good enough to see you second in the league on goal difference.

I don’t mean to be negative after all, being top with two games in hand is obviously a great position to be in, it’s just a little frustrating that we could almost be out of sight now were it not for a few minor lapses and some bad luck.

The point I’m labouring towards rather slowly is that regardless of what the rest of the chasing pack are up to, United haven’t always been firing on all cylinders and now’s the time to start picking up some vital away wins.

Although it’s been happy days so far we can’t be relying on the likes of Wigan, Newcastle and Everton to keep taking points of the rest of the top teams. It’s now time United kicked on and put some distance between ourselves and whoever’s second.

Let’s be totally honest if you are looking for an away win, other than perhaps Anfield there can’t be many better places to visit than the Hawthorns on New Years Day. The reason I say this is simple, WBA have just been beaten by a distinctly average Blackburn side, in the process of which they had defender Gabriel Tamas sent off who’ll now be missing for our visit as will Gonzalo Jara who picked up a fifth booking. In case that wasn’t enough the Baggies also have one of the less impressive home records in the EPL winning only one more than they‘ve lost at the Hawthorns.

Before every away game this season there’s been an air of confidence, even for the trip to Stamford Bridge most United fans were left feeling gutted it’d been postponed. Yet for seven of the away fixtures we’ve been left feeling disappointed so the question remains- when will our disappointment end?

Well I’m going to stick my neck out and say it will end with the final whistle at the Hawthorns as this is a game that isn’t ‘must win’ but it is ‘should win- easily.’
With Nani hopefully back in the side, Berbatov in fine form, plus the loss of two vital defenders for West Brom this time there really can be no excuses for not beating a team we hammered 5-0 on our last trip to the Hawthorns.

West Brom are in their worst slump of the current campaign, having lost their last three fixtures, and seven out of their last ten.

If United are going to be successful though they are going to need to get over any complacency and deal with three West Brom players who can be a handful for any team.

Ones to watch -head-to-heads

Chris Brunt- Along with our very own Nani, Brunt is top of the assists charts this season- which is quite an impressive statistic considering the team he plays for lie in 14th place. The Northern Ireland winger has been one of West Brom’s shining stars this season and his free-kick against Everton was quite frankly sublime- 30 yards in case you missed it. Despite the fact Brunt is left footed he is often deployed on the right and encouraged to cut inside or sometimes even in the middle. Wherever he’s played against United, whether it’s Evra, Rafael, Brown or possibly even Fletcher who has to deal with him, he needs to be closely watched as a lot of West Brom’s best football comes from him.

Peter Odemwingie- West Brom’s top scorer has six league goals to his name this season, which is not a bad return considering his team’s position. Odemwingie was the player at the centre of the Russian racism storm after his previous club Lokomotiv Moscow’s fans displayed a racist banner celebrating his sale.
Regardless of what a bunch of morons are doing in his old stomping ground Odemwingie has got on with the business of helping to keep West Brom out of the relegation zone. If Rio and Vidic can stop him getting from getting any joy then West Brom do not have many other dangerous players they can turn to. Odemwingie is a capable striker but if we’re being completely honest you’d expect United’s defence to be able to handle him.

Youssuf Mulumbu is typical of a few West Brom midfielders in that he is fairly skilful and versatile yet, struggles for consistency. Mulumbu can operate in more than one position but will probably be used as a holding midfielder against United. With United expected to be on the attack for much of the game Mulumbu could have a busy afternoon on his hands. Mulumbu on his day, can be a very capable player who is not afraid to carry the ball forward. It will be interesting to see if starts for United as that could be a real contest, although if the Brazilians on top form, I think Mulumbu will struggle to contain him.

While no United away trip can leave any fans totally confident of victory, there’s every reason to think that New Year’s Day will see a second win on The Red’s travels. If the are strikers are on form, then the West Brom defence- not to mention the error-prone Scott Carson, could be in for a very difficult afternoon. The term ‘must-win game’ is bandied about almost frequently nowadays and only seems to be valid until the game isn’t actually won. Take United’s home game against West Brom earlier in the season- that was seen as must win until The Reds drew. Entering that game United had drawn three of their last four league games, the only win coming against Liverpool which is now no longer anything to shout about. A win at home to West Brom was seen as a must, but in reality while it was a disappointing result it didn’t matter as much as some, including myself if I’m totally honest, thought at the time.

United’s trip to the Hawthorns has already been labelled a ‘must-win’ in certain quarters as one win in eight away games has left Sir Alex’s men looking distinctly unimpressive on the road. Yet for all the anger felt at so many dropped points- particularly with no less than three last minute equalisers being scored against United, the fact remains that the Reds are still in a superb position in the league-top with two games in hand.

The main problem with this statistic is the fact that if we’re totally honest, part of the reason United are top is because the rest of the top teams have been consistently poor. Chelsea have lost half as many games as they’ve won, Arsenal have lost a third of their home games, while City have managed only half as many goals at home as United have in the same amount of games- dropping 12 points in the process, not really the sort of return usually good enough to see you second in the league on goal difference.

I don’t mean to be negative after all, being top with two games in hand is obviously a great position to be in, it’s just a little frustrating that we could almost be out of sight now were it not for a few minor lapses and some bad luck.

The point I’m labouring towards rather slowly is that regardless of what the rest of the chasing pack are up to, United haven’t always been firing on all cylinders and now’s the time to start picking up some vital away wins.

Although it’s been happy days so far we can’t be relying on the likes of Wigan, Newcastle and Everton to keep taking points of the rest of the top teams. It’s now time United kicked on and put some distance between ourselves and whoever’s second.

Let’s be totally honest if you are looking for an away win, other than perhaps Anfield there can’t be many better places to visit than the Hawthorns on New Years Day. The reason I say this is simple, WBA have just been beaten by a distinctly average Blackburn side, in the process of which they had defender Gabriel Tamas sent off who’ll now be missing for our visit as will Gonzalo Jara who picked up a fifth booking. In case that wasn’t enough the Baggies also have one of the less impressive home records in the EPL winning only one more than they‘ve lost at the Hawthorns.

Before every away game this season there’s been an air of confidence, even for the trip to Stamford Bridge most United fans were left feeling gutted it’d been postponed. Yet for seven of the away fixtures we’ve been left feeling disappointed so the question remains- when will our disappointment end?

Well I’m going to stick my neck out and say it will end with the final whistle at the Hawthorns as this is a game that isn’t ‘must win’ but it is ‘should win- easily.’
With Nani hopefully back in the side, Berbatov in fine form, plus the loss of two vital defenders for West Brom this time there really can be no excuses for not beating a team we hammered 5-0 on our last trip to the Hawthorns.

West Brom are in their worst slump of the current campaign, having lost their last three fixtures, and seven out of their last ten.

If United are going to be successful though they are going to need to get over any complacency and deal with three West Brom players who can be a handful for any team.

Ones to watch -head-to-heads

Chris Brunt- Along with our very own Nani, Brunt is top of the assists charts this season- which is quite an impressive statistic considering the team he plays for lie in 14th place. The Northern Ireland winger has been one of West Brom’s shining stars this season and his free-kick against Everton was quite frankly sublime- 30 yards in case you missed it. Despite the fact Brunt is left footed he is often deployed on the right and encouraged to cut inside or sometimes even in the middle. Wherever he’s played against United, whether it’s Evra, Rafael, Brown or possibly even Fletcher who has to deal with him, he needs to be closely watched as a lot of West Brom’s best football comes from him.

Peter Odemwingie- West Brom’s top scorer has six league goals to his name this season, which is not a bad return considering his team’s position. Odemwingie was the player at the centre of the Russian racism storm after his previous club Lokomotiv Moscow’s fans displayed a racist banner celebrating his sale.
Regardless of what a bunch of morons are doing in his old stomping ground Odemwingie has got on with the business of helping to keep West Brom out of the relegation zone. If Rio and Vidic can stop him getting from getting any joy then West Brom do not have many other dangerous players they can turn to. Odemwingie is a capable striker but if we’re being completely honest you’d expect United’s defence to be able to handle him.

Youssuf Mulumbu is typical of a few West Brom midfielders in that he is fairly skilful and versatile yet, struggles for consistency. Mulumbu can operate in more than one position but will probably be used as a holding midfielder against United. With United expected to be on the attack for much of the game Mulumbu could have a busy afternoon on his hands. Mulumbu on his day, can be a very capable player who is not afraid to carry the ball forward. It will be interesting to see if Anderson starts for United as that could be a real contest, although if the Brazilians on top form, I think Mulumbu will struggle to contain him.

While no United away trip can leave any fans totally confident of victory, there’s every reason to think that New Year’s Day will see a second win on The Red’s travels. If the strikers are on form, then the West Brom defence- not to mention the error-prone Scott Carson, could be in for a very difficult afternoon.

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