Manchester United Fan View: Three key West Brom battles to keep an eye on

Asif Norat

With the key fixture of the weekend being Arsenal vs Manchester City, Manchester United have the chance to make grounds on their noisy neighbours if the result goes their way and if they also beat West Brom at home in the 3:00pm kick off.

Despite it being easier said than done, Tony Pulis’ side are currently having a successful season in the Premier League and also have a decent record away from home. Sitting in eight place at the moment, the Baggies have only lost three league games since the start of the new year.

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Here are the three key battles that could shape the outcome of the fixture…

Marcus Rashford vs Gareth McAuley

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic serving the third and final game of his ban, Marcus Rashford is most likely to lead the line on his own once again. As shown in the match against Middlesbrough, the youngster’s pace and movement in the final third proved to be deadly as he created two to three chances for himself. Although he has not scored a goal in the league since September against Leicester City, Rashford will soon or later get one as he’s causing a lot of problems for the opposition through the middle.

Rashford will be in for an intensive and gritty battle versus Gareth McCauley, who has arguably been West Brom’s best centre-back so far this season. Being part of a backline that have conceded only 38 league goals, the 37-year-old has also proved to be a vital asset from set-pieces, with four of his six goals coming from his headed attempts. Standing at six foot two inches tall, McAuley certainly has the height and physical advantage compared to Rashford.

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Salomon Rondon vs Eric Bailly

West Brom’s top goal-scorer in the league, Salomon Rondon, will be aiming to cause a lot of issues for the Red Devils, who will not have defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones available for the game. Thriving from his work-rate and aerial duels, the Venezuelan forward will hope to get back into his goal-scoring routine as he currently suffers from a 14-game goal drought. On top of that, Rondon will be facing the third current best defence within the league.

Rondon will be up against none other than Eric Bailly, who has been one of the side’s consistent players since the arrival of Jose Mourinho. Instantly becoming a regular starter for the team, the 22-year-old’s presence in the defence gives the fans some sort of a satisfaction that no defensive errors will be made. With Jones and Smalling still injured, it looks like Bailly will be pairing up with Marcos Rojo for the first time this season at the heart of defence.

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Michael Carrick vs Darren Fletcher

Considering the fact that Ander Herrera is still banned and the likes of Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini are on the sidelines with a knock, Michael Carrick will need to perform at the highest level by dictating the play as usual and also to create constant chances for his team. Despite having a few months left on his contract, the veteran has provided the ideal balance in midfield when he is utilised and the side have only lost on one occasion when Carrick is in the starting line-up.

Meanwhile for West Brom, Darren Fletcher will be playing as a box to box midfielder and will be hoping that his team can take something away from the game back to the West Midlands. The captain has been making the side tick, with his abilities on both sides of the pitch and will be in for an interesting duel against his close friend Michael Carrick.

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