MAN UNITED 1, WEST BROM 0
Bruno Fernandes’ twice taken penalty earned Manchester United a belated first home Premier League win of the season against West Brom.
It came at the fifth attempt after the Reds, once again unconvincing at Old Trafford, had collected only one point from their first four home games.
But it was a huge win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, lifting his side to ninth place as Fernandes scored the first home league goal for 324 minutes.
It also ended a disappointing run of results against the Baggies at Old Trafford where West Brom had won three times since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, inflicting defeats on David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mouronho.
The drama came in the second half as centred on two penalties, the one which the Baggies were awarded and then had taken away from them – Fernandes of all people conceded it.
United were then awarded a spot kick which had to be taken twice after goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, on a return to the club where he began his career, had strayed too soon from his line.
The win was a relief after the Reds avoided equalling an unwanted record of not winning any of their first five home league games – it has only happened twice before on 1930/31 and 1972/73.
You had to feel for the Baggies, though, as they deserved some reward for their efforts as a first league win of the season continues to elude them.
Apart from the penalty, which former United great Rio Ferdinand thought was a spot kick, substitute Callum Robinson struck the frame of the United goal.Embed from Getty Images
“It’s a disgraceful decision. He got it right first time. It’s a nailed-on penalty. How can he go against his own decision on that?” explained Ferdinand.
United manager’s said: “I’m delighted to get all three points, our first home win of the season and a clean sheet.
“It was definitely not a step forward performance wise. We played well at Everton and I was happy with that.
“This was below par but important to get three points more than the performance. To move up the table, we have to play better.
“A lot had been written about not winning at home and it probably affected the players for than I would have liked.
“It’s difficult after the international break having not worked with the players, and important that you get a win. We needed that win at home. We looked unsettled towards the end even though we should score one or two more to have a more relaxed finish.
“They had a couple of chances and David [de Gea] made two fantastic saves. Tight margins decide games but the mood is decided by the results.
“It’s up to us to create momentum, we have the chance to continue the good start in the Champions League and Southampton away is a very difficult game as well. Hopefully we get a few more back and can kick on.”
On the penalty incident: “It’s the same with David (de Gea) early on (in the season) when he made a save but he was an inch off the line. It’s probably the beauty of Bruno’s (Fernandes) style where the keeper goes a second too early.
“The handball rule you can discuss over and over but we get into the box and the ball into feet so with VAR a touch can be enough and it’s different to when I was playing when you had to be hacked down.”
West Brom boss Slaven Bilic said:”We played well. We had a few chances to score. We were there. I told the guys I’m disappointed, I think we deserved something.
“We deserved to go in front in the second half. I told them to stay positive and stay and fight and train and we’ll win games.”
On the penalty they had overturned, he explained: “I’m very disappointed with the decision. I felt like ‘small West Brom’. All those crucial decisions went against us. I’ve watched it a few times and it’s a clear penalty. I don’t understand why he overturned it.”
And on United’s penalty, he said: “It’s a handball. It’s a bit unlucky but it’s handball. Before that it was a clear foul on Conor Gallagher. Instead of 1-0 for us, it’s 1-0 for them. When you play against Manchester United away it’s a huge difference.”
United made two changes from the side that won at Everton in their last match before the international break.
New Brazilian signing Alex Telles was handed his Premier League debut in place of injured left back Luke Shaw.
Nemanja Matic was preferred to Scott McTominay in midfield while Paul Pogba was not involved after being injured on international duty and aggravating the knock in training on Friday.
Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof had shaken off injuries to keep their places.
West Brom made four changes from the 1-0 home defeat to Tottenham last time out.
Matheus Pereira and Branislav Ivanovic were back after self-isolating while Romaine Sawyers and Grady Diangana stepped up from the bench.
Two of those losing out were Jake Livermore and Kieran Gibbs who had tested positive for coronavirus.
After an uneventful opening, United finally carved out their first opening in the 16th minute when a neat passing move ending with Anthony Martial forcing a fine save from Johnstone low to ho left.
The Baggies went close when Pereira released Karlan Grant whose shot rolled agonisingly wide.
Then near the end of a lacklustre opening period, Kyle Bartley’s header from Conor Gallagher’s corner looped on to the roof of the net.
The Reds had a lucky escape after conceding a penalty in the opening minutes of the second period after referee David Coote deemed Bruno Fernandes fouled Gallagher.
The decision went to VAR but Peter Bankes could not verify the spot kick at Stockley Park.
Bankes referred Coote to the touchline monitor and, after viewing it again, overturned his original decision.
Rashford was denied by a super stop by Johnstone while David De Gea kept out Conor Townend’s close-range effort with his legs.
There was further penalty drama in the 53rd minute when Juan Mata’s ball into the box clearly struck the arm of centre back Semi Ajayi.
Fernandes’ spot kick was superbly saved by Johnstone diving low to his left, only for VAR to rule he had strayed from his line before the kick was taken.
The kick had to be retaken and this time Fernandes made no mistake from 12 yards, his seventh goal of the season. It was also his seventh penalty from 14 Premier League goals for the Reds.
The Baggies made a double change just after the hour bringing on Hal Robson-Kanu and Callum Robinson with United also making a switch as Mata made way for Edinson Cavani.
And within three minutes of making his entrance, Robinson rattled the crossbar with a shot from the edge of the vox.
United ought to have made it 2-0 when Fernandes set up Rashford whose shot from six yards was brilliantly kept out by Johnstone’s fine reflexes.
Johnstone was called into action again with another fine stop, this time to deny Harry Maguire following Fernandes’ corner.
United made their second change with 11 minutes left with Donny van de Beek replacing Rashford. And that was quickly followed by McTominay taking over from Fred.