WEST BROM 2, MANCHESTER UNITED 2
Stephane Sessegnon and Saido Berahino give West Brom the lead twice
Marouane Fellaini and Daley Blind equalise with their first United goals
Robin Van Persie hits the post; Angel Di Maria limps off injured
“Judge me after three months.” was an eyecatching early statement by Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal.
The Dutchman has already admitted it was a was ‘stupid’ mistake to make such a bold claim and a 2-2 draw at West Brom means that a return of just 12 points from eight Premier League games is only one more than David Moyes had at the same stage last season.
United remain without a win on the road under Van Gaal after encountering a West Brom side content to sit deep and provide little space for Juan Mata to work in and were within three minutes of snatching a first Premier League victory at home to United.
Their enthusiasm to close United down and hit them on the break led to mistakes as the Reds lost the ball and wasted possession rather too much, exposing their shaky defence.
This culminated in an 8th minute blow when Luke Shaw went missing, given too little protection by Angel Di Maria, and Andre Wisdom stole in with plenty of space and support from Stephane Sessegnon who duly put West Brom with a superb strike into the top corner from the edge of the area.
Van Gaal had selected Robin Van Persie to lead the attack instead of Falcao, with Adnan Januzaj playing just off him but the Dutchman cut a frustrated figure as luck deserted him and United in a chance starved half.
Ander Herrera was replaced by Fellaini at the break as United chased the game and he duly grabbed one less than three minutes into his 25th appearance for the Reds.
West Brom will complain that the corner that the goal came from wasn’t a corner and that Joleon Lescott was fouled by the Belgian midfielder but there were no complaints about the quality of the finish, which was expertly chested down by the big man from a cross by Di Maria, before he lashed it past Boaz Myhill.
Fellaini almost grabbed another one after shaping to meet Januzaj’s cross but Craig Dawson headed the ball away.
The tide changed quickly as United created many more chances and put the Baggies under heavy siege with presentable chances for Di Maria, Daley Blind, and Juan Mata going begging.
United rode their luck somewhat when referee Mike Dean refused to penalise Rafael for an apparently deliberate handball in diving on a through ball, drawing the ire of home fans within the Hawthorns.
Stung by the injustice, the home team started to regain some composure after the early United storm and began to counter attack the Reds again.
There was further controversy when Saido Berahino refused to go down under a challenge in the area when he could have won himself a penalty but parity was restored in the 65th minute when the quick striker found himself in acres of space and played onside by Rafael who was left trailing in the dust behind the England U21 striker who restored the Baggies’ lead with a fine strike.
The goal was Berahino’s fifth in four games, and sixth in the Premier League this season and illustrated once again the poor defending that has blighted United’s season so far.
Inevitably, there was a reaction from United. Van Persie hit the post in the 75th minute and Januzaj hit the rebound high over the bar but United’s quest for the equaliser was hit by what looked like an injury to Di Maria who limped off.
Daley Blind had been booked for a professional foul on Stephane Sessegnon as frustrations grew but scored a priceless equaliser after bending the ball past three defenders to level the scores with just over two minutes of normal time left.
The Baggies but managed to hold on to the draw despite the late deflating blow under immense United pressure after chances by Fellaini and Ashley Young were spurned.
United are now 6th, and have a difficult run of games at home to Chelsea, away to Manchester City, home to Crystal Palace, away to Arsenal and at home to Hull City before December. If Van Gaal was asking to be judged now, he should watch out for the opinions of Old Trafford fans when the Christmas decorations go up this year.