A new season and a fresh start. And yet again, West Bromwich Albion kicked off their campaign against the reigning Barclays Premier League Champions. But this time it was a much closer affair.
This time last year the Baggies were on the end of a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea. Forward a year later, Manchester United for sure were made to work hard for their 2-1 win on Sunday by Albion.
Plenty of positives to come out of the game and for me this season is all about West Brom consolidating their place in the Premier League. And from what I saw against Manchester United, I can see the Baggies doing just that.
It was always going to be difficult for Albion to get something out of the game. But apart from the goals United scored, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side didn’t create many clear cut chances and Ben Foster didn’t have much to do.
For the first 20 minutes of the game, I just felt Albion gave Man. Utd too much respect but United’s first goal was a great team goal. The link up play for the goal was exquisite and Wayne Rooney finished well to put United in front.
Nani could have and should have put the Red Devils 2-0 up after Foster punched the ball from a corner straight into the Portuguese winger’s path. However Nani blazed his effort over the bar and the chance was gone.
But West Brom appeared to have got a lift after Paul Scharner’s long range effort and from there the Baggies were on the front foot.
Shane Long may well prove to be one of the shining lights of the Premier League this season and scoring on his West Brom debut will do his confidence the world of good. You could argue David De Gea should have kept out Long’s effort and the media will no doubt point out the Spanish goalkeeper made another howler.
But the former Reading striker certainly put in a shift and if Sunday’s performance is anything to go by, Long and Peter Odemwingie could be a potent strike force.
There are still questions about Odemwingie’s future but if I’m honest with you, the Nigerian would be better off staying at The Hawthorns. Peter has a contract at Albion and he should respect that.
Albion’s second half performance was an improvement on the first half and apart from conceding goal; the Baggies did not put a foot wrong.
Ashley Young is one player who can give any defence the run around and his low cross went in off the unlucky Steven Reid. United hung on to the three points and the Baggies were unfortunate not to take at least a point from the game.
On paper when you looked at the team sheets, you would have expected Man. Utd to win the game comfortably. But West Brom gave it everything and I actually thought they defended well. Albion also limited the number of chances United had on the West Brom goal.
Reflecting on the game, there was not much difference between the sides and Albion could so easily have got a draw. However despite the defeat, there is cause for optimism for West Brom and their fans.
Owen Hargreaves has already held talks with West Brom and the former Bayern Munich midfielder would be great signing in my opinion. Yes he has had his injury problems but he would be a fine addition to the squad.
With Ishmael Miller on his way to Nottingham Forest, I reckon the Baggies could do with another striker. But who? Daniel Sturridge on loan perhaps? Or possibly bring Carlos Vela back.
Liam Ridgewell has been linked with a move to The Hawthorns and for me the former Villa defender would be a decent acquisition for the Baggies. Ridgewell has experience and he knows what the Premier League is all about.
I was listening to what the fans had to say after Sunday’s game and the one area that was a concern for them was the right back area. We have yet to see Billy Jones in action so lets see what the ex-Preston man can do.
So Albion travel to Stamford Bridge on Saturday to take on Chelsea. West Brom could not have asked for two tougher games to start the season with but Sunday’s performance from the Baggies was encouraging.
I am optimistic West Brom will stay out of trouble and its vital the players and fans don’t get carried away after last season. But with Roy Hodgson in charge, the Baggies will for sure be no pushovers as we saw on Sunday.
There are three worse sides than Albion and I will be very surprised if West Brom were to get relegated come the end of the season. The only way is up and under Hodgson; I can see the future being bright for Albion.
Up The Baggies!