Manchester United turned in another lacklustre Premier League performance at Old Trafford on Saturday, and were fortunate to come away with a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion. It was a close game, marred by controversial refereeing decisions, and Bruno Fernandes netted its only goal from the penalty spot early in the second half.
The first half was a tediously predictable affair in which United struggled to create openings against a spirited and well-disciplined West Brom. The Baggies’ back five defended valiantly, filling in the gaps and denying United the space they needed to create goalscoring chances.
United’s best chance of the half came just after the quarter-hour, when Marcus Rashford fizzed the ball into Bruno Fernandes, who touched it off for Anthony Martial. It looked for all the world like the Frenchman would bury his shot in the bottom corner, but former United keeper Sam Johnstone got down to make a brilliant save low to his left.
West Brom responded within five minutes, when Matheus Pereira found Karlan Grant charging in off the right channel. He tried to squeeze a low shot inside David de Gea’s far post, though his effort took a nick off Victor Lindelöf before trickling narrowly wide.
United went close again just past the half-hour, when a lofted Fernandes ball found Juan Mata arriving late at the back post. He tried to volley the ball back into the six-yard box, though Johnstone swept up possession before Martial could pounce. As usual, Fernandes was the only United player who looked to have the ingenuity to force an opening.
However, disaster almost struck just moments into the second half, when Fernandes felled Conor Gallagher in the penalty area. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, only to overturn his call after consulting the pitchside monitor. West Brom boss Slaven Bilić wasn’t best pleased, and with good reason: replays appeared to show a foul.
Lady luck wasn’t shining on the visitors, and soon they found themselves trailing in controversial circumstances. Just seconds after De Gea made a brilliant save to deny Conor Townsend, Darnell Furlong was penalised for a handball in his own penalty area. Fernandes was initially denied by Johnstone from the spot, though the keeper had encroached while making the save, and Fernandes found the net on the retake.
The Baggies didn’t let their heads drop, and almost found a quick equaliser. Substitute Callum Robinson found a pocket of space on the edge of the United box, and curled a brilliant, dipping shot off the top of de Gea’s crossbar. United could’ve killed the game off seconds later, when Fernandes squared a low ball for Rashford, though he was denied by another superb Johnstone save from inside the six-yard box.
United finally started to turn the screw, and a Harry Maguire half-volley required a tip around the post. Substitute Edinson Cavani had a couple of half-chances from close range, though he was well-marked by the West Brom defenders. The hosts dominated the final few minutes, though weren’t able to cap a narrow win with a second goal. It wasn’t pretty, but it’s an invaluable three points for Ole Gunnar Solskjær.