So far, the Pardew era has swung between encouraging and disappointing, but it remains goalless and, as a result, winless. Wednesday’s result at Anfield was on the encouraging side and the new head coach needs to see if he can keep the team on the upward swing as José Mourinho brings his Manchester United side to the Hawthorns on Sunday.
After the midweek match, it was a strange feeling in that it was a positive and unexpected result, but one that also meant that the team had set a new club record of sixteen consecutive matches in all competitions without a win, and equalled the record set in 2004/05 of 15 league games without a win. The latter run also included a change of manager, although it was the new man, Bryan Robson, who presided over the majority of the run. It was Robson’s his 12th game in charge that finally brought his first three points, although he did get a win over Preston in the FA Cup a couple of weeks beforehand.
The previous record winless run was under Alan Buckley in the 1995/96 season. It much worse than the current run as Albion lost 14 of the 15 games only avoiding defeat in the Black Country Derby at the Hawthorns with the game finishing 0-0. They then signed Richard Sneekes and went on to lose just two of their remaining 19 league games and finished comfortably in mid-table. The “all competitions” tag, however, does ignore the much-maligned Anglo-Italian Cup. The Baggies actually won two games against Italian opposition during that run, at home to Reggiana and away to Brescia, and progressed to the final only to lose to Port Vale. If you count that trophy, the longest run in all competitions was 14 in 2004/05 which was ended by that cup win over Preston.
Looking forward to Sunday, it will be another tough test for Albion and most would take a point even though that means extending the unwanted record even further. Despite Mourinho having been accused of setting up his team not to lose, draws have been few and far between for the Red Devils this season. While Albion have been involved eight stalemates this season, the most in the Premier League, United have only drawn twice in all competitions, with the last being the 0-0 at Anfield in mid-October. Looking at the Premier League results this season, the 2-1 defeat at Huddersfield is the one that stands out – it is the one real shock that they have been subject to, although the draw at Stoke isn’t looking like a great result given the season the Potters are having. Their only other defeats have been to City and Chelsea and they have scored four goals in half of their twelve wins this season. And with Pardew looking to see his side score the first goal of his tenure, it doesn’t bode well that United have the joint best defensive record in the Premier League having conceded just eleven goals in seventeen matches.
Krychowiak returned to the starting line up on Wednesday for the first time under Pardew, in place of Sam Field, and produced one of his best performances in an Albion shirt. Meanwhile, James McClean, also started with Jay Rodriguez dropping to the bench, probably because he is somewhat more useful when the side are without the ball in terms of harrying and challenging, if a little over-zealous on occasion. Yacob, meanwhile, seems to have become a fixture for Pardew having been largely frozen out under Pulis this season. One surprising statistic from Wednesday’s match is that there was just one yellow card, and that was for Liverpool’s Emre Can. Worryingly, Evans, McClean, Yacob and Nyom are all one card away from a suspension so let’s hope that they don’t all fall at once!
Barring any injuries, I’d be surprised to see too many changes for Sunday’s game. Matt Phillips may be fit and Pardew may opt to be a little more attacking at home, I guess, but it is likely to be another backs-to-the-wall effort. Pardew has rightly pointed out that Albion need to be better in transition, and Phillips is one of the better outlets in those situations which is the strongest indicator that he may well start if fit.
For the visitors, Paul Pogba will serve the last of his three match suspension on Sunday, Eric Bailly has been ruled out until March while Marcus Rojo and Marouane Fellaini are slight doubts.
Much as I would love to hear Mourinho complaining about a referee’s decision to deflect attention away from an unexpected defeat, and I am encouraged by the performance at Anfield, I think this will be another defeat for Albion, albeit a narrow one.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
1 Apr 2017 – Premier League
Manchester United 0
West Brom 0
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
17 Dec 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 0
Manchester United 2 (Ibrahimović (2))
6 Mar 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Rondón)
Manchester United 0
Albion’s Record against Manchester United
|Premier League Record|