Manchester United will look to get back to winning ways in the Premier League on Saturday when they welcome Tony Pulis' West Bromwich Albion to Old Trafford. United scored their first goal in over three matches in the rather unimpressive win over CSKA Moscow in midweek, and the prospect of going up against one of the most defensive teams in the entire division isn't a particularly attractive one for a side struggling to score.
West Brom have been something of a bogey team for United over the last few seasons. They won on their last visit to Old Trafford, with Robin van Persie missing a late penalty and an opportunity to cancel out what would prove to be the game's only goal. United have won only once in their last five meetings with the Baggies home and away, and West Brom's reasonable start to the season means this should be another tough contest.
Luke Shaw and Paddy McNair are still sidelined, and could be joined by Antonio Valencia, Morgan Schneiderlin and James Wilson. Ashley Young will almost certainly be given the nod at right-back with Matteo Darmian suspended.
West Brom will have to do without former United man Ben Foster, while Chris Brunt is a doubt. Both Jonny Evans and Darren Fletcher are expected to play against their old club.
West Brom are managed by Tony Pulis, and so are every bit as awkward a team to play against as you'd fear. Usually involving a fairly standard 4-4-2, the Pulisian approach is a brutal and often effective one: sit deep, play physical, and counter-attack with deep crosses and long balls. It's not going to be pretty, but they're one of the best defensive units in the entire division and will fancy their chances against United's slow passing game.
In possession, United will have to watch for wingers Callum McManaman and James McClean. They're highly industrious players, tirelessly patrolling the flanks to offer defensive cover without the ball and stretch the opposition back line when they win it back. They're also burdened with the responsibility of providing service and support to the Baggies two strikers: don't expect either of their central midfielders, Darren Fletcher and Claudio Yacob, to spend much time in advanced positions.
However, despite being an overwhelmingly defensive team, they have one of the best attacks of the Premier League's makeweights. One-time United target (apparently) Saido Berahino is a very neat talent, with his blistering pace helping him to chase down any long passes played in behind the defensive line. His strike partner Salomón Rondón is even scarier: the Venezuelan became the club's record signing after arriving from Zenit St. Petersburg in the summer, and he seems more than good enough to play for a better team. Strong, quick and excellent in the air, United's centre-backs shouldn't expect an easy afternoon.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David De Gea; Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young; Michael Carrick, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Jesse Lingard, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata; Anthony Martial.
West Bromwich Albion (4-2-3-1): Boaz Myhill; Chris Brunt, Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Craig Dawson; James McClean, Claudio Yacob, Darren Fletcher, Callum McManaman; Saido Berahino, Salomón Rondón.