Sunday's game at the Hawthorns is one that's supposed to mean nothing, and yet, it's one that's going to mean so much to every Red. As you're probably aware, it will be Sir Alex Ferguson's 1,500th -- and last -- game as manager of Manchester United.
So much has been said about the legendary manager since he announced his retirement a week-and-a-half ago -- and so much emotion has poured in from Fergie himself, his family, his players, his staff, and his supporters in response. No one man is bigger than any football club but no football club has ever had a man as metaphorically as big as Sir Alex Ferguson. To point out the incredibly obvious, he's going to be missed so much.
Last week's game at Old Trafford against Swansea City, which was followed by a speech from the great man and the trophy presentation for his 13th Premier League title, felt like closure. The scenes at the Threatre of Dreams were incredible and the emotions likely swayed severely for most -- saying it was a mix of joy and sadness perhaps sounds simple for such a complicated range of emotions, but that likely catches the gist of the mood for the fortunate fans at the ground and for the tens of millions that were watching around the globe. The day as a whole was a beautiful penultimate scene and ultimately, a celebration. And this is without even mentioning that it was the Old Trafford farewell for the legendary Paul Scholes as well.
I suppose if last Sunday at Old Trafford was the penultimate scene of the Ferguson (managerial) era, then Monday's incredible parade through the streets of Manchester was the final scene. And if that's the case, then Sunday's upcoming game at West Bromwich Albioin is perhaps the epilogue.
My guess is that the away fans that travel to the Hawthorns will be even more vociferous than usual, even if West Brom are trying their best to prevent United fans from flooding their ground. There might be, though, a tinge more sadness in the songs and goodbyes. This will be the final goodbye.
As for the game itself, my guess is that no one is too terribly excited about it -- or not, at least, like you were for the Real Madrid ties or the first Manchester derby earlier in the season. Some basic team news to be aware of is that Darren Fletcher, Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, and Rafael will all be out due to either illness, injury, or suspension. In addition, in Fergie's pre-match press conference yesterday, he indicated that Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic will be on the bench with Jonny Evans and Phil Jones likely stepping in for them as central-defenders. Anders Lindegaard will be in goal too instead of David de Gea.
With Jones likely at center-back, and with Rafael and Smalling unavailable, that likely means either Antonio Valencia or Reserves runner-up for player of the year Marnick Vermijl at right-back. Other young(-ish) players that we could possibly see include Alexander Buttner, Tom Cleverley, Anderson, Nick Powell (!), Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa, and Javier Hernandez (Chicharito). Something tells me that we won't be seeing Wayne Rooney. But maybe we'll see Scholesy one last time. However, his goodbye and appearance last weekend at Old Trafford feels like a proper final one (to me at least).
One interesting tidbit is that if United win this game, they will finish with 91 points -- that would equal the 1999-2000 side for the club's joint-highest in the Premier League.
KO: 4:00pm BST, 11:00am EST | The Hawthorns
TV: None (U.K.), FOX Sports Net (U.S.)