Manchester United are still well on the outside of the top four looking in, but they've kept their chances alive with a win over West Bromwich Albion. United's biggest game of the season comes next weekend against Liverpool, and they'll be thrilled that they're going into it following a 3-0 win.
West Brom were surprisingly on top from the start, and their pressure from the front caused problems for Manchester United. Even though the Baggies didn't have any great early chances, they blocked a number of attempted clearances by United and played most of the first 15 minutes of the game in their attacking half.
However, the tables turned on them eventually. In the 33rd minute, Chris Brunt brought down Rafael on the edge of the penalty area, giving United a free kick in a dangerous position. Mata delivered a perfect ball into the center of the box for Phil Jones, who directed his free header into the back of the net.
An eventful end to the first half saw West Brom go close to equalizing, then dodge a serious bullet. Victor Anichebe missed the goal by mere inches when he turned around Jones and hit a shot from 12 yards in the 41st minute, but fortune favored the Baggies just a minute later when Ben Foster came out of his goal. He tried to control the ball with his feet outside of the box, but misplayed badly and had to handle the ball to keep it from getting behind him. He should have been sent off, but the officials didn't spot his indiscretion.
Despite starting the second half a bit stronger, United came close to conceding an equalizer again in the 57th minute, when Mata cleared a shot by Youssef Mulumbu off the line. Just eight minutes later, the West Brom defense fell apart, letting United score a second goal, though they were temporarily down to 10 men at the time. While waiting for Saido Berahino to come on for the injured Chris Brunt, the hosts let Wayne Rooney find a space between two defenders, get on the end of a Rafael cross and hit a simple header into the back of the net.
Danny Welbeck entered the game as a substitute and added to United's tally late with a composed finish. Rooney picked him out with a through ball and he waited for Jonas Olsson to make a sliding challenge, then stepped past him and placed the ball to the back post to seal United's win.
West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Ridgewell, Olsson, McAuley, Reid (Sessegnon 60'), Yacob (Morrison 40'), Mulumbu, Brunt (Berahino 66'), Gera, Amalfitano, Anichebe
Manchester United: De Gea, Evra, Jones, Smalling, Rafael (87'), Fellaini, Carrick, Januzaj (Kagawa 73'), Rooney, Mata, van Persie (Welbeck 63')
Goals: Jones (34'), Rooney (65'), Welbeck (82')