Manchester United vs. West Bromwich Albion: Final score 2-0, Red Devils edge out Baggies in nervy game

Clive Brunskill

Manchester United earned a deserved but nervy 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford, with a Gareth McAuley own-goal and Robin van Persie strike.

Manchester United got off to a fine start and didn't take long to put themselves in front. Shinji Kagawa's return to the side was a much-anticipated one by United fans, and he soon showed why. He sent a sublimely delicate flick with the outside of his boot to Ashley Young in the area, who sent in a low cross which Gareth McAuley diverted into his own net.

If United were hoping that the floodgates would open however, they were to be disappointed. United went on to absolutely dominate the half, with the Baggies not getting a sniff of David de Gea's goal. Antonio Valencia came close to setting up Shinji Kagawa with a low cross before Ben Foster took too much time on a backpass and allowed his clearance to be closed down by Welbeck, but the ball ended up just wide of the goal. Despite their monopolisation of possession and some fine touches by Kagawa, however, United were unable to craft any other clear chances and went into the break with just a one-goal lead.

West Brom were able to gather their composure at the break, and came out looking far better, almost equalising soon after coming out when David de Gea parried Chris Brunt's shot. Then Gabriel Tamas wasted a glorious chance, heading the ball well off target.

United struggled to pen West Brom back as they had in the first half, showing their continual trait this season of being unable to put teams away, and indeed it was the visitors who had the better chances. As the game wore on, United increasingly struggled to hold onto the ball. They almost paid as Romelu Lukaku teed up James Morrison on the edge of the area, but he was denied by a fantastic block by Jonny Evans.

In the end, the determination of Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic to hold back the Baggies' attack paid off, as substitute Robin van Persie scored a fantastic goal to round off the victory. After Paul Scholes cut in from the left and saw his shot blocked, the Dutchman picked up the ball on the other side of the area, stepped inside, and smashed the ball past Ben Foster from outside the area.

United will be hugely relieved to get the victory, but the game will be most notable for the performances of Nemanja Vidic and Shinji Kagawa. The former's determination was instrumental in keeping the clean sheet, while the latter provided some wonderful flickers of imagination and gave United a more creative option between midfield and attack. It was far from one of their best performances, and they are still yet to really thrash a team, but there were more positives than negatives for Alex Ferguson.

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