Louis van Gaal cut a frustrated figure after his Manchester United side were denied a first away win by West Bromwich Albion on Monday night.
Louis van Gaal cut a frustrated figure after his Manchester United side were denied a first away win by West Bromwich Albion on Monday night.
In fact, the hosts twice threatened to claim a victory themselves, edging in front through Stephane Sessegnon and Saido Berahino before Marouane Fellaini and Daley Blind levelled the scores at 1-1 and 2-2 respectively.
“I am very disappointed, the result was not good enough,” said van Gaal in his post-match interview.
“I think we could have won and that’s why I’m disappointed. I have to be happy that we created lots of chances and West Brom had only two shots – but their two shots were both goals! We gave the game away with our errors which is a pity as it could have been a new start if we’d have won here – that was possible, I believe.”
When asked if his side had given too much space to West Brom’s attacking players for the two goals, van Gaal replied: “Yes, that’s also a part of the individual errors [we made]. West Brom were playing more narrow in midfield and our wide defenders were pushing up and giving away too much space.”
“I had more or less decided to bring him on after 30 minutes,” revealed the Reds boss. “I said to him to look at what Herrera was doing because I want you to play. He scored at once [after coming on] and made some very good play I think.
“We have to look for physical balance and maybe that’s part of our problem. I am a coach who always looks for creative players but in England you also need physical bodies in your team – Fellaini is one of these.
“I am looking for balance and maybe with this formation, but with the same philosophy, we could do better.
“With training sessions players now understand the philosophy more and I have seen it also tonight which is why it’s such a pity we couldn’t get the result we deserved.”
The boss was asked whether he might utilise the same 4-2-3-1 formation in the forthcoming crunch matches with traditional rivals Chelsea and Manchester City. “You never know but I have a lot of confidence as I liked the match,” he teased in response.
Finally, on United’s points tally in sixth place: “It’s not good because when you see our games we have normally been the better team. But when you have 12 points from eight games, it’s eight points too few.”
WEST BROM ALBION 2
Sessegnon 8, Berahino 65
MANCHESTER UNITED 2
Fellaini 48, Blind 87
Marouane Fellaini and Daley Blind both scored their first goals for Manchester United to earn the Reds a dramatic 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion.
Strikes from Stephane Sessegnon and Saido Berahino had earned the Baggies slender leads in each half, though the visitors showed great courage and tenacity to twice restore parity and earn a much-deserved away point in the Barclays Premier League.
Louis van Gaal made three changes to the XI which started the 2-1 win over Everton before the international break with Phil Jones, Ander Herrera and Adnan Januzaj all coming in for Paddy McNair, Antonio Valencia and Radamel Falcao. The boss also adapted his formation at The Hawthorns, opting for 4-2-3-1 instead of the recently used 4-4-2 diamond.
United made a slow start to proceedings and fell behind in just the eighth minute when Stephane Sessegnon latched onto Andre Wisdom’s cross from the right flank to smash into the top right corner of David De Gea’s goal. The Reds reacted well and could have equalised moments later when Robin van Persie met Angel Di Maria’s through-ball to force a decent save from Boaz Myhill, who was brought in for the injured Ben Foster.
The Baggies’ goalkeeper was again in action shortly afterwards when Di Maria expertly controlled Daley Blind’s long ball before swiftly hitting a left-footed shot at goal. The Argentinian then went close for a second time when his powerful 15-yard effort in the 30th minute was also saved.
Robin van Persie had a shot blocked in the 39th minute before James Morrison was booked for a rash challenge on Herrera. Juan Mata took the resulting free-kick and, disappointingly, his effort flew high and wide of the crossbar, which summed up a frustrating first half for the Spanish midfielder.
Van Gaal decided to replace recently-injured Herrera with Marouane Fellaini at the half-time break and the towering Belgian made an immediate impact in the 48th minute, when he out-muscled former Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott to control the ball on his chest and then smash a right-footed shot past Myhill from around 10 yards, prompting delirious scenes among the travelling United fans.
Clearly encouraged by the equaliser, the Reds pressed forward in search of another goal and almost found one when Rafael’s cross evaded Fellaini at the far post before Mata’s close-range shot was blocked by a West Brom defender. Then, against the run of play, the Baggies restored their lead in the 65th minute as Saido Berahino ran onto Morrison’s incisive pass to finish past De Gea.
Falcao, who did not start due to jetlag, was then introduced for Mata and the Colombian almost registered an assist with his first touch when his back-header led to van Persie hitting the post in the 74th minute, with Januzaj then blasting wide from the rebound. Ashley Young replaced Di Maria, who took a seat in the dugout with an ice-pack around his right thigh.
Just as another away defeat was looming large, United restored parity as Falcao teed up Blind to curl home his first goal for the club and secure some reward on this road trip to the Midlands.
After a 15-day break for international fixtures, Manchester United are back in action in the Barclays Premier League on Monday night away to West Bromwich Albion (kick-off 20:00 BST).
The Reds have won the last two matches against West Ham and Everton and climbed to fourth in the table as a result. With challenging fixtures against Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal not far away, Louis van Gaal will hope for another victory to keep the momentum going.
Team news: United captain Wayne Rooney is again unavailable as sits out game two of his three-match suspension, but van Gaal confirmed in his pre-match press conference on Friday that his injury list is now down to just four players. Paddy McNair,Antonio Valencia, Jonny Evans and Jesse Lingard are sidelined, and although Michael Carrick is back in training the boss says this game is likely to come too soon for the midfielder. However, Ander Herrera is set to feature after shaking off a rib problem. West Brom’s record signing Brown Ideye could return after an ankle injury, while Chris Brunt (groin) faces a race to be fit and Claudio Yacob has returned home to Argentina on compassionate leave.
The Opposition: The Baggies endured a disappointing start to the campaign under new manager Alan Irvine but results have picked up recently. They’ve won three of their last four outings in all competitions, including an impressive 1-0 triumph at Tottenham, and were unlucky to lose away to Liverpool last time out. Irvine will hope Saido Berahino can continue his prolific scoring form, after five goals in seven league games so far this season plus a match-winning penalty for England Under-21s against Croatia last week.
In an interview with Manutd.com, Manchester United assistant manager Ryan Giggs says the Reds must take heart from recent performances and results and wants the team to continue edging towards the peak of their powers during the most testing part of the season so far.
Two hard-fought wins over West Ham and Everton in the last couple of weeks have lifted the Reds to fourth in the table. West Brom are next up on Monday night at The Hawthorns, before a home meeting with Chelsea and away trips to Manchester City and Arsenal in the space of a month during October and November.
Giggs says there have been promising signs of late on the pitch, but maintains that the squad will need to be as close to top gear as possible for the upcoming challenges.
“These are the games you want to be involved in and play in. And they will be a test,” he told ManUtd.com at the HMV Football Extravaganza earlier this week.
“Chelsea have probably been the standout team so far with City just behind them and we want to be up there testing ourselves against those teams. We feel that we do belong up there but we perhaps haven’t shown it consistently this season.
“We’ve shown glimpses over the last few weeks and hopefully we’ll have a lot of players coming back for those games. The form has slowly begun to get better and better and we want to hit form going into those matches.”
Giggs is working hard with Louis van Gaal and the rest of the coaching staff to ensure the best possible preparation for
the players ahead of the imminent clashes. And while nothing can replace the buzz of being involved in them as a player, Giggs insists he is loving his new career as van Gaal’s assistant.
“It’s a great experience for me to work under such a top manager who has such a good track record,” he added. “I’m really enjoying it and the manager has been really good with me.
“I’m doing as much as I can to make sure we’re in form and ready for each game. A lot of work goes into that and we’re slowly seeing the benefits of it.”
Former Manchester United favourite Gary Neville feels the current side’s credentials will be thoroughly examined in the coming weeks as the focus returns to domestic football after the international break.
Louis van Gaal’s side are at West Brom on Monday night before facing back-to-back showdowns with title favourites Chelsea and Manchester City.
Neville, speaking to ManUtd.com at the HMV Football Extravaganza in London that honoured Ryan Giggs’ achievements in the game, is clear that the barometer for success will be provided soon, particularly by Jose Mourinho’s Barclays Premier League leaders.
“I think it’s an exciting time,” he explained. “It’s going to be an important few weeks but exciting as well. We’ll find out in the next few weeks as the West Brom, Chelsea and City games are all massive ones that I’m going to be at and my thought is we’ll find out exactly [the level] where the team is at this season.
“It’s going to be tough for United to get into the Champions League and that would be a big achievement. At this moment in time, we’re in the places in fourth spot but we’ll find out where we’re at in the next few weeks. We’ve not really played anybody really strong yet. I know Everton at home could be classed as being a tough game but, in terms of really tough matches, Chelsea and City will provide a real measure of where this team is at.”
The ex-skipper believes United will have every chance of upsetting Chelsea at Old Trafford in the eagerly-awaited encounter on 26 October.
“I’ve watched a lot of City and Chelsea, and Chelsea are the best team by a long way,” added Neville. “Make no mistake about that. But I’d like to think United are always the club that can beat a big team. Even in seasons when we weren’t great, like in the mid-2000s, I always felt we could upset Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ and Chelsea – I think Darren Fletcher scored one year when Mourinho was manager.
“I look at the game in two weeks’ time and United will be up for it. Chelsea will have been in Europe that week and, for me, United will cause Chelsea big problems. It’ll be their toughest game and Jose Mourinho would know that.”
Evans proud of Northern Ireland
Jonny Evans admits he is immensely proud of Northern Ireland’s performances in his absence, even if he was disappointed to miss out on the wins over Faroe Islands and Greece.
The Manchester United defender sustained an ankle injury during the defeat to Leicester City and, although he has had a protective boot removed, manager Louis van Gaal revealed he was still to return to light training last week and was unable to feature for his country.
Michael O’Neill’s side top Group F of the European Championship qualifiers with maximum points, the first time the country have won their opening three games in the competition, after upsetting top seeds Greece 2-0 on Tuesday night.
“Obviously, it was a great win for the team and I think it was thoroughly deserved,” Evans told ManUtd.com. “We had a really good game-plan against Greece and it’s fantastic we’ve got three wins on the trot at the start of the campaign. It sets us up going forward for the rest of the games.
“We’ve had spells in the past where we’ve had a lot of wins but the pleasing thing is two of the victories have come away from home, where it’s always been difficult for us. We had some good performances throughout the last campaign but just came up short with the results. I think the manager, Michael O’Neill, has done a fantastic job in getting everybody together and believing in ourselves.”
Evans hopes to return to the side for next month’s trip to Romania to add to his 35 international caps and has spoken to his brother Corry, who performed in midfield in Athens on a memorable night for Northern Ireland.
“It’s been absolutely gutting to miss the games but I’m immensely proud of the lads for the way they’ve performed,” Jonny added. “I’ve been in regular contact with my brother obviously and I’m pleased to see the lads performing so well and getting the result.”
Sir Alex Ferguson has been impressed by Louis van Gaal’s summer recruitment at Manchester United – and his continuation of the club’s famous youth policy.
The Reds invested heavily in the summer, to bring in six major signings including the club’s record acquisition of Angel Di Maria for £59.7million. No stranger to spending landmark fees himself, the former manager has been impressed by what the new boss has done so far in the transfer market.
When asked about the Di Maria deal in an exclusive interview for MUTV, Sir Alex replied: “I think when you can identify ability like that needed by Manchester United, they [the club] have the resources to do that [deal]. They are fees I never quite equalled but nonetheless they were needing quite a big injection this year.
“They brought in some good quality. It was really important as you need quality at Manchester United, you need the best players. It’s the rebuilding of the team.”
Moving on to van Gaal’s other new boys, Sir Alex revealed: “The signing of [Luke] Shaw was the one we tried to get when he was 16 years of age. They [Southampton] wouldn’t sell him to us but they always said we’d be first to know if they ever did. Of course, Ed Woodward carried that through and got him, I think for £30million. He’s a talented boy, a good footballer who likes to get forward all the time.
“[Ander] Herrera played against us three years ago for [Athletic Club] Bilbao in the Europa League. In fairness, they gave us a right battering at Old Trafford. He’s a talented young player and we scouted him quite a lot at that time. Obviously they tried to get him last year but it fell through for some reason or another. He’s athletic, quite aggressive actually for a lad who has not a got a great frame as he’s quite slim but he gets around the pitch.
“Rojo, the Argentinian boy, I watched him at the World Cup, I thought he did really well for them and I think he’s capable of playing either left side as a wing-back if you like or as a centre-back.
“Daley Blind is one of those common-sense footballers who make up a team. He’s probably a version of Darren
Fletcher of a few years ago, that type of player. He’s a good professional with common sense to his game. He keeps it simple and protects the defenders and the attacking midfielders in his role.
“The big one is Falcao who we’re all waiting to see. Obviously, he has fantastic goalscoring ability. He had his injury so getting him on loan is the right thing to do.”
Sir Alex has also been pleased to see van Gaal handing debuts to Academy graduates Tyler Blackett, Jesse Lingard, Saidy Janko, Andreas Pereira, Reece James, Paddy McNair and Tom Thorpe.
“What has pleased me with Louis is he’s given seven young kids their debuts this year and that falls into line with the history of our club,” said Sir Alex. “I think the supporters particularly respond very, very well when a young player gets his opportunity. Young people have to be given an opportunity, particularly if they’ve got ability. If you wait too long, they just stagnate and you lose them.
“You can never afford that, in my time in particular, and there was always a time when you had to assess exactly where they’re going. Whether they are going to be first-team players or get careers elsewhere. The great thing about United that still exists is there are probably around 90 players playing in England who started their careers at United’s Academy. It tells you the operation produces not just young players but good human beings, young people who can go anywhere. That’s a lot down to the staff we’ve had at United.”
Marcos Rojo was as hurt as anyone by Argentina’s World Cup final defeat in July but says his national team are now solely focused the future.
Rojo was in the side that lost 1-0 to Germany after extra-time in Brazil, a game his Manchester United team-mate Angel Di Maria missed through injury.
Argentina have since beaten their final foes 4-2 in a friendly but Rojo admits that win could never make up for what happened in Rio de Janeiro.
“It doesn’t change what happened,” the Reds defender told ManUtd.com. “It was painful for us to lose the final against them.
“We wanted to win the cup and it eluded us but now we have to put it behind us. We have to move forward and think of what’s ahead. We have the Copa America in 2015, so now our focus is to be prepared for the upcoming games.”
Those aforementioned fixtures are both in Asia: a glamour friendly against Brazil in Beijing on Saturday, followed by a trip to Hong Kong two days later.
“The match against Brazil will be very tough,” Rojo added. “It is a derby for the Americas and for the world, I would say. It is a very important game for us and we will try to win, like we always do. Hong Kong are not a well-known team, but Asian football has grown a lot and it will also be difficult.”
Rojo has already shown a lot of pride in the United shirt, celebrating the team’s goals and victories with gusto, and he is also passionate about representing his country.
“The national team is incredible,” he said. “I think that any player dreams of representing his country. The chance to represent mine is something special and I never take it for granted.”