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Now, you don’t need to be a Premier League aficionado to recall a few missteps by seemingly-talented Man United teams against Sam Allardyce in the past. The Premier League Years programme was a terrific reminder of just how much better things used to be, but it also re-alerts you to the danger of Big Sam when your team comes up against him and he’s in need of a result.
Yes, times have changed ever so slightly, and this West Brom side might actually be the worst he’s ever taken charge of – and I include his stint as player manager of Limerick in 1992 in that. For the longest time, Allardyce’s strengths have been motivation and knowing where to pick his battles.
Sunday 14:00 – West Brom v Man United
Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Premier League
Right now, you could barely motivate this West Brom team get showered after a game of football, let alone win it and the time for picking battles has long-since departed.
West Brom are in win-now mode, and that level of desperation should play into Man United’s hands. The league might be over in earnest, but Manchester United finishing ahead of Liverpool must now be the aim. Here’s your three best bets.
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Earlier in the season, I reckon the tendency that fans were holding onto about United’s improvement is that they were never out of games and they’d find a way to score late to secure points. That’s easy enough to fall back on given their manager scored the most famous late winner in the history of the football club.
But, as the season has progressed, United have matured beyond that last-minute requirement and became functional in their own right.
That growth has people excited for next year – the irony of them using a ‘Liverpoolism’ isn’t lost on me here – and they’re now not just ‘in’ games, but actively dictating how they go. That’s a surefire sign that things are going in the right direction, even if this year has come too soon for them. Right now, West Brom coming out to play early will only increase the likelihood of them scoring early.
The one enjoyable thing about Man United is that they’re both good and get-at-able at the same time. You know before you watch them that you’re not going to be resigned to seeing them keep possession for 90 minutes.
Funnily enough, Scott McTominay and Fred aren’t actually capable of that. West Brom need to score and they need to score now. Their primary goal threats from open play are all midfielders and every single one of them will undoubtedly take aim, particularly in the second half.
One primary concern for Manchester United that’s been lingering over them now for five years is the decline in form of David De Gea. Even for Everton’s equaliser a week ago, the Spaniard seems incredibly indecisive, and this will land a target on his back in the shape of Sam Allardyce’s desired Sunday brunch.
With two towering centre halves and Harry Maguire possessing the spatial awareness of a tortoise on a waterslide, it’s hard not to fancy there being some degree of chaos from set pieces. Ajayi is one of the best headers in the Premier League and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him secure another goal for his tally.
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