Manchester United hosted West Brom at Old Trafford, with Louis van Gaal’s side looking for their first Premier League goal in three hours and 28 minutes. Their patience was finally rewarded when, 60 seconds after the second ‘attack, attack, attack’ of the day, Jesse Lingard curled a beauty past Boaz Myhill.It nearly took the roof off, as did Juan Mata’s late penalty.Did they save Van Gaal from boos? It is unlikely.
Before half-time, the Dutchman’s philosophy saw two shots on target against Tony Pulis’s blue-and-white striped parked bus but there were no jeers, only applause. And the hordes who sought sanctuary in the concourse bars with a good five minutes to go before the interval missed the second, Anthony Martial bringing a fine save from a previously redundant Myhill.
It was as though they had been listening to their manager. ‘Until now they were fantastic so I cannot complain about the fans,’ Van Gaal said before the game. ‘I can only advise the fans to criticise the manager and not the players. ‘They would do neither.
United’s struggles here have to be put into context. Pulis’s side are probably the worst Van Gaal could have hoped to have faced. But they have built a history here on battering those who come to put up shot into submission In United’s press room there are framed pictures of Denis Law and Eric Cantona on the wall.
Men who took chances and who entertained. It came as no surprise that, during a particularly dull spell in the first-half ‘Five Cantonas’ rang around the theatre where they currently dream of more exciting times.
The roar that greeted the goal from Lingard, one of their own, was almost guttural. It was then over to the West Bromwich fans to call for more intent, demanding the introduction of Saido Berahino.
They got their wish and if Berahino had not headed over from four yards out things may have turned a little. Against the Russians, Van Gaal heard boos when he substituted Anthony Martial for Marouane Felliaini.
Here there were resounding cheers when Wayne Rooney made way for Ander Herrera and even louder ones when Mata’s injury-time penalty doubled the lead.
In five away matches this season, West Brom had only conceded to Crystal Palace.A 2-0 victory, then, is not another reason to raise the boring accusation.At the final whistle came cheers. They were justified.