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West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom vs Manchester United, Premier League: live score updates

  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom vs Manchester United, Premier League: live score updates

  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

Bristol City ride wave of emotion but Birmingham hit rock bottom

Ben Pritchard’s parents hold up his No8 shirt after Bristol City’s victory over Nottingham Forest.

Derby day: From one-sided fixtures to tight affairs - how will Merseyside and Manchester clashes play out?

It is a fact not lost on Merseyside that a generation of young Everton fans have never seen their side win at Anfield. More than 18 years have passed since the Toffees last took three points home with them on the short trip back across Stanley Park, with David Moyes, Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman all trying and failing to build a side capable of breaking the Anfield curse. It now falls to Sam Allardyce to rekindle the spirit of September 1999, when an early Kevin Campbell goal, created by a young Francis Jeffers, was enough to secure victory in a typically fiery encounter. Jeffers was later sent off, along with Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld, and they were soon joined by a fresh-faced Steven Gerrard, making just his second appearance in a Merseyside derby. Everton have beaten Liverpool at Goodison Park on just four occasions since then, making their rivalry one of the most one-sided in recent history. Liverpool have dominated Everton in recent years Credit: Getty There has, however, been plenty of competition down the years for the title of football’s most unbalanced derby. In some cases, a local derby serves as an equaliser, when better teams are routinely pegged back by smaller rivals. In others, the derby atmosphere has the opposite effect, causing one side to shrink and another to thrive… One-sided derbies Everton are by no means alone in consistently struggling against their local rivals. Famously, Atletico Madrid did not beat Real Madrid, home or away, for 14 years. When they finally broke that duck, it was in the Santiago Bernabeu in the final of the Copa del Rey. “If you had made the fans an offer in which you had said we won’t win against them for 14 years but when we do, it will be in the Cup final at their stadium, with them scoring first, hitting the post three times and us winning in extra time, they would have signed up for that,” said manager Diego Simeone afterwards. Elsewhere in Spain, Barcelona have won 97 of 167 derbies with Espanyol, and have lost just three of the last 41 meetings with their local rivals. It is a similar story in west London, where Chelsea have won 46 games against neighbours Fulham, losing just 11. Although they have not always been in the same division, Chelsea have been defeated by Fulham just once, in 2006, since 1979. Chelsea have had the upper hand over Fulham Credit: Getty Images Over in Germany, Bayern Munich have dominated the Munich derby, winning 104 games against 1860 Munich and losing just 50. And on an international level, it is hard to find a more barren run of form than in the early decades of the USA’s rivalry with Mexico. After the Americans won in their first meeting, at the 1934 World Cup, Mexico went on an unbeaten run against the USA that stretched over 46 years and 26 matches until they were finally defeated in 1980. The anomalies In most of these cases, the results are an obvious consequence of the reflective sizes of the two clubs involved. It is no surprise, for example, that a club of Barcelona’s stature is so dominant over the comparably small Espanyol. But sometimes the derby serves as an equaliser, when the size of the various trophy cabinets has no impact on results. The so-called ‘smaller’ clubs can regularly claim the scalps of their ‘bigger’ rivals, or matches between sides at similar levels can become inexplicably uneven. Just look at the recent history of the ‘M23 derby’, between Crystal Palace and Brighton. Palace have had the upper hand, losing just one of the last eight games between the two. The 'M23 derby' is a fiercely-contested derby Credit: Getty And then there’s the East Anglian derby between Ipswich Town and Norwich City, two sides who, by and large, exist at the same echelons of English football. Norwich have not lost to Ipswich in nine matches since 2009. It is also an odd quirk that Stoke City have gone six matches without victory over Port Vale, and have won just two of the last 13 meetings between the two (that said, they have not faced each other since 2002, so those particular figures can appear misleading at first). What of Birmingham and Aston Villa? Here are two sides that played each other regularly in the Premier League in the 00s and have since faced off three times in the Championship, yet Birmingham have not won a league game between them in 11 attempts. The same applies to Sunderland and Newcastle. Both have generally operated at the lower end of the Premier League for the last five years, yet Sunderland’s record is one you would expect of a Champions League team playing a League One side: six wins in their last seven derbies, and no defeats in their last nine. Oxford United and Swindon Town have a similarly unbalanced recent record, with Oxford winning seven of the last eight meetings and going unbeaten in seven matches, in both league and cup competitions, since 2011. Too tight to call Of course, there are also those derbies that are so tightly-contested it is almost impossible to divide the two teams. For this, look no further than Nottingham Forest v Derby. Forest have won 39 times, while Derby have won 37. Burnley’s record against Blackburn Rovers is similarly tight: Burnley have won 41 while Blackburn have won 42. El Clasico is one of the tighest, high-profile rivalries Credit: AP Fulham may not have had much luck against Chelsea, but it’s a far tighter affair with fellow west Londoners QPR, who they have beaten 16 times but lost on 14 occasions. The ultimate in close derbies, though, is El Clasico. Barcelona and Real Madrid have played 172 times, with Real winning 72 and Barcelona winning 68. There’s also just seven goals between them: Real have scored 280, while Barcelona have scored 273.

Derby day: From one-sided fixtures to tight affairs - how will Merseyside and Manchester clashes play out?

It is a fact not lost on Merseyside that a generation of young Everton fans have never seen their side win at Anfield. More than 18 years have passed since the Toffees last took three points home with them on the short trip back across Stanley Park, with David Moyes, Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman all trying and failing to build a side capable of breaking the Anfield curse. It now falls to Sam Allardyce to rekindle the spirit of September 1999, when an early Kevin Campbell goal, created by a young Francis Jeffers, was enough to secure victory in a typically fiery encounter. Jeffers was later sent off, along with Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld, and they were soon joined by a fresh-faced Steven Gerrard, making just his second appearance in a Merseyside derby. Everton have beaten Liverpool at Goodison Park on just four occasions since then, making their rivalry one of the most one-sided in recent history. Liverpool have dominated Everton in recent years Credit: Getty There has, however, been plenty of competition down the years for the title of football’s most unbalanced derby. In some cases, a local derby serves as an equaliser, when better teams are routinely pegged back by smaller rivals. In others, the derby atmosphere has the opposite effect, causing one side to shrink and another to thrive… One-sided derbies Everton are by no means alone in consistently struggling against their local rivals. Famously, Atletico Madrid did not beat Real Madrid, home or away, for 14 years. When they finally broke that duck, it was in the Santiago Bernabeu in the final of the Copa del Rey. “If you had made the fans an offer in which you had said we won’t win against them for 14 years but when we do, it will be in the Cup final at their stadium, with them scoring first, hitting the post three times and us winning in extra time, they would have signed up for that,” said manager Diego Simeone afterwards. Elsewhere in Spain, Barcelona have won 97 of 167 derbies with Espanyol, and have lost just three of the last 41 meetings with their local rivals. It is a similar story in west London, where Chelsea have won 46 games against neighbours Fulham, losing just 11. Although they have not always been in the same division, Chelsea have been defeated by Fulham just once, in 2006, since 1979. Chelsea have had the upper hand over Fulham Credit: Getty Images Over in Germany, Bayern Munich have dominated the Munich derby, winning 104 games against 1860 Munich and losing just 50. And on an international level, it is hard to find a more barren run of form than in the early decades of the USA’s rivalry with Mexico. After the Americans won in their first meeting, at the 1934 World Cup, Mexico went on an unbeaten run against the USA that stretched over 46 years and 26 matches until they were finally defeated in 1980. The anomalies In most of these cases, the results are an obvious consequence of the reflective sizes of the two clubs involved. It is no surprise, for example, that a club of Barcelona’s stature is so dominant over the comparably small Espanyol. But sometimes the derby serves as an equaliser, when the size of the various trophy cabinets has no impact on results. The so-called ‘smaller’ clubs can regularly claim the scalps of their ‘bigger’ rivals, or matches between sides at similar levels can become inexplicably uneven. Just look at the recent history of the ‘M23 derby’, between Crystal Palace and Brighton. Palace have had the upper hand, losing just one of the last eight games between the two. The 'M23 derby' is a fiercely-contested derby Credit: Getty And then there’s the East Anglian derby between Ipswich Town and Norwich City, two sides who, by and large, exist at the same echelons of English football. Norwich have not lost to Ipswich in nine matches since 2009. It is also an odd quirk that Stoke City have gone six matches without victory over Port Vale, and have won just two of the last 13 meetings between the two (that said, they have not faced each other since 2002, so those particular figures can appear misleading at first). What of Birmingham and Aston Villa? Here are two sides that played each other regularly in the Premier League in the 00s and have since faced off three times in the Championship, yet Birmingham have not won a league game between them in 11 attempts. The same applies to Sunderland and Newcastle. Both have generally operated at the lower end of the Premier League for the last five years, yet Sunderland’s record is one you would expect of a Champions League team playing a League One side: six wins in their last seven derbies, and no defeats in their last nine. Oxford United and Swindon Town have a similarly unbalanced recent record, with Oxford winning seven of the last eight meetings and going unbeaten in seven matches, in both league and cup competitions, since 2011. Too tight to call Of course, there are also those derbies that are so tightly-contested it is almost impossible to divide the two teams. For this, look no further than Nottingham Forest v Derby. Forest have won 39 times, while Derby have won 37. Burnley’s record against Blackburn Rovers is similarly tight: Burnley have won 41 while Blackburn have won 42. El Clasico is one of the tighest, high-profile rivalries Credit: AP Fulham may not have had much luck against Chelsea, but it’s a far tighter affair with fellow west Londoners QPR, who they have beaten 16 times but lost on 14 occasions. The ultimate in close derbies, though, is El Clasico. Barcelona and Real Madrid have played 172 times, with Real winning 72 and Barcelona winning 68. There’s also just seven goals between them: Real have scored 280, while Barcelona have scored 273.

Derby day: From one-sided fixtures to tight affairs - how will Merseyside and Manchester clashes play out?

It is a fact not lost on Merseyside that a generation of young Everton fans have never seen their side win at Anfield. More than 18 years have passed since the Toffees last took three points home with them on the short trip back across Stanley Park, with David Moyes, Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman all trying and failing to build a side capable of breaking the Anfield curse. It now falls to Sam Allardyce to rekindle the spirit of September 1999, when an early Kevin Campbell goal, created by a young Francis Jeffers, was enough to secure victory in a typically fiery encounter. Jeffers was later sent off, along with Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld, and they were soon joined by a fresh-faced Steven Gerrard, making just his second appearance in a Merseyside derby. Everton have beaten Liverpool at Goodison Park on just four occasions since then, making their rivalry one of the most one-sided in recent history. Liverpool have dominated Everton in recent years Credit: Getty There has, however, been plenty of competition down the years for the title of football’s most unbalanced derby. In some cases, a local derby serves as an equaliser, when better teams are routinely pegged back by smaller rivals. In others, the derby atmosphere has the opposite effect, causing one side to shrink and another to thrive… One-sided derbies Everton are by no means alone in consistently struggling against their local rivals. Famously, Atletico Madrid did not beat Real Madrid, home or away, for 14 years. When they finally broke that duck, it was in the Santiago Bernabeu in the final of the Copa del Rey. “If you had made the fans an offer in which you had said we won’t win against them for 14 years but when we do, it will be in the Cup final at their stadium, with them scoring first, hitting the post three times and us winning in extra time, they would have signed up for that,” said manager Diego Simeone afterwards. Elsewhere in Spain, Barcelona have won 97 of 167 derbies with Espanyol, and have lost just three of the last 41 meetings with their local rivals. It is a similar story in west London, where Chelsea have won 46 games against neighbours Fulham, losing just 11. Although they have not always been in the same division, Chelsea have been defeated by Fulham just once, in 2006, since 1979. Chelsea have had the upper hand over Fulham Credit: Getty Images Over in Germany, Bayern Munich have dominated the Munich derby, winning 104 games against 1860 Munich and losing just 50. And on an international level, it is hard to find a more barren run of form than in the early decades of the USA’s rivalry with Mexico. After the Americans won in their first meeting, at the 1934 World Cup, Mexico went on an unbeaten run against the USA that stretched over 46 years and 26 matches until they were finally defeated in 1980. The anomalies In most of these cases, the results are an obvious consequence of the reflective sizes of the two clubs involved. It is no surprise, for example, that a club of Barcelona’s stature is so dominant over the comparably small Espanyol. But sometimes the derby serves as an equaliser, when the size of the various trophy cabinets has no impact on results. The so-called ‘smaller’ clubs can regularly claim the scalps of their ‘bigger’ rivals, or matches between sides at similar levels can become inexplicably uneven. Just look at the recent history of the ‘M23 derby’, between Crystal Palace and Brighton. Palace have had the upper hand, losing just one of the last eight games between the two. The 'M23 derby' is a fiercely-contested derby Credit: Getty And then there’s the East Anglian derby between Ipswich Town and Norwich City, two sides who, by and large, exist at the same echelons of English football. Norwich have not lost to Ipswich in nine matches since 2009. It is also an odd quirk that Stoke City have gone six matches without victory over Port Vale, and have won just two of the last 13 meetings between the two (that said, they have not faced each other since 2002, so those particular figures can appear misleading at first). What of Birmingham and Aston Villa? Here are two sides that played each other regularly in the Premier League in the 00s and have since faced off three times in the Championship, yet Birmingham have not won a league game between them in 11 attempts. The same applies to Sunderland and Newcastle. Both have generally operated at the lower end of the Premier League for the last five years, yet Sunderland’s record is one you would expect of a Champions League team playing a League One side: six wins in their last seven derbies, and no defeats in their last nine. Oxford United and Swindon Town have a similarly unbalanced recent record, with Oxford winning seven of the last eight meetings and going unbeaten in seven matches, in both league and cup competitions, since 2011. Too tight to call Of course, there are also those derbies that are so tightly-contested it is almost impossible to divide the two teams. For this, look no further than Nottingham Forest v Derby. Forest have won 39 times, while Derby have won 37. Burnley’s record against Blackburn Rovers is similarly tight: Burnley have won 41 while Blackburn have won 42. El Clasico is one of the tighest, high-profile rivalries Credit: AP Fulham may not have had much luck against Chelsea, but it’s a far tighter affair with fellow west Londoners QPR, who they have beaten 16 times but lost on 14 occasions. The ultimate in close derbies, though, is El Clasico. Barcelona and Real Madrid have played 172 times, with Real winning 72 and Barcelona winning 68. There’s also just seven goals between them: Real have scored 280, while Barcelona have scored 273.

Derby day: From one-sided fixtures to tight affairs - how will Merseyside and Manchester clashes play out?

It is a fact not lost on Merseyside that a generation of young Everton fans have never seen their side win at Anfield. More than 18 years have passed since the Toffees last took three points home with them on the short trip back across Stanley Park, with David Moyes, Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman all trying and failing to build a side capable of breaking the Anfield curse. It now falls to Sam Allardyce to rekindle the spirit of September 1999, when an early Kevin Campbell goal, created by a young Francis Jeffers, was enough to secure victory in a typically fiery encounter. Jeffers was later sent off, along with Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld, and they were soon joined by a fresh-faced Steven Gerrard, making just his second appearance in a Merseyside derby. Everton have beaten Liverpool at Goodison Park on just four occasions since then, making their rivalry one of the most one-sided in recent history. Liverpool have dominated Everton in recent years Credit: Getty There has, however, been plenty of competition down the years for the title of football’s most unbalanced derby. In some cases, a local derby serves as an equaliser, when better teams are routinely pegged back by smaller rivals. In others, the derby atmosphere has the opposite effect, causing one side to shrink and another to thrive… One-sided derbies Everton are by no means alone in consistently struggling against their local rivals. Famously, Atletico Madrid did not beat Real Madrid, home or away, for 14 years. When they finally broke that duck, it was in the Santiago Bernabeu in the final of the Copa del Rey. “If you had made the fans an offer in which you had said we won’t win against them for 14 years but when we do, it will be in the Cup final at their stadium, with them scoring first, hitting the post three times and us winning in extra time, they would have signed up for that,” said manager Diego Simeone afterwards. Elsewhere in Spain, Barcelona have won 97 of 167 derbies with Espanyol, and have lost just three of the last 41 meetings with their local rivals. It is a similar story in west London, where Chelsea have won 46 games against neighbours Fulham, losing just 11. Although they have not always been in the same division, Chelsea have been defeated by Fulham just once, in 2006, since 1979. Chelsea have had the upper hand over Fulham Credit: Getty Images Over in Germany, Bayern Munich have dominated the Munich derby, winning 104 games against 1860 Munich and losing just 50. And on an international level, it is hard to find a more barren run of form than in the early decades of the USA’s rivalry with Mexico. After the Americans won in their first meeting, at the 1934 World Cup, Mexico went on an unbeaten run against the USA that stretched over 46 years and 26 matches until they were finally defeated in 1980. The anomalies In most of these cases, the results are an obvious consequence of the reflective sizes of the two clubs involved. It is no surprise, for example, that a club of Barcelona’s stature is so dominant over the comparably small Espanyol. But sometimes the derby serves as an equaliser, when the size of the various trophy cabinets has no impact on results. The so-called ‘smaller’ clubs can regularly claim the scalps of their ‘bigger’ rivals, or matches between sides at similar levels can become inexplicably uneven. Just look at the recent history of the ‘M23 derby’, between Crystal Palace and Brighton. Palace have had the upper hand, losing just one of the last eight games between the two. The 'M23 derby' is a fiercely-contested derby Credit: Getty And then there’s the East Anglian derby between Ipswich Town and Norwich City, two sides who, by and large, exist at the same echelons of English football. Norwich have not lost to Ipswich in nine matches since 2009. It is also an odd quirk that Stoke City have gone six matches without victory over Port Vale, and have won just two of the last 13 meetings between the two (that said, they have not faced each other since 2002, so those particular figures can appear misleading at first). What of Birmingham and Aston Villa? Here are two sides that played each other regularly in the Premier League in the 00s and have since faced off three times in the Championship, yet Birmingham have not won a league game between them in 11 attempts. The same applies to Sunderland and Newcastle. Both have generally operated at the lower end of the Premier League for the last five years, yet Sunderland’s record is one you would expect of a Champions League team playing a League One side: six wins in their last seven derbies, and no defeats in their last nine. Oxford United and Swindon Town have a similarly unbalanced recent record, with Oxford winning seven of the last eight meetings and going unbeaten in seven matches, in both league and cup competitions, since 2011. Too tight to call Of course, there are also those derbies that are so tightly-contested it is almost impossible to divide the two teams. For this, look no further than Nottingham Forest v Derby. Forest have won 39 times, while Derby have won 37. Burnley’s record against Blackburn Rovers is similarly tight: Burnley have won 41 while Blackburn have won 42. El Clasico is one of the tighest, high-profile rivalries Credit: AP Fulham may not have had much luck against Chelsea, but it’s a far tighter affair with fellow west Londoners QPR, who they have beaten 16 times but lost on 14 occasions. The ultimate in close derbies, though, is El Clasico. Barcelona and Real Madrid have played 172 times, with Real winning 72 and Barcelona winning 68. There’s also just seven goals between them: Real have scored 280, while Barcelona have scored 273.

Derby day: From one-sided fixtures to tight affairs - how will Merseyside and Manchester clashes play out?

It is a fact not lost on Merseyside that a generation of young Everton fans have never seen their side win at Anfield. More than 18 years have passed since the Toffees last took three points home with them on the short trip back across Stanley Park, with David Moyes, Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman all trying and failing to build a side capable of breaking the Anfield curse. It now falls to Sam Allardyce to rekindle the spirit of September 1999, when an early Kevin Campbell goal, created by a young Francis Jeffers, was enough to secure victory in a typically fiery encounter. Jeffers was later sent off, along with Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld, and they were soon joined by a fresh-faced Steven Gerrard, making just his second appearance in a Merseyside derby. Everton have beaten Liverpool at Goodison Park on just four occasions since then, making their rivalry one of the most one-sided in recent history. Liverpool have dominated Everton in recent years Credit: Getty There has, however, been plenty of competition down the years for the title of football’s most unbalanced derby. In some cases, a local derby serves as an equaliser, when better teams are routinely pegged back by smaller rivals. In others, the derby atmosphere has the opposite effect, causing one side to shrink and another to thrive… One-sided derbies Everton are by no means alone in consistently struggling against their local rivals. Famously, Atletico Madrid did not beat Real Madrid, home or away, for 14 years. When they finally broke that duck, it was in the Santiago Bernabeu in the final of the Copa del Rey. “If you had made the fans an offer in which you had said we won’t win against them for 14 years but when we do, it will be in the Cup final at their stadium, with them scoring first, hitting the post three times and us winning in extra time, they would have signed up for that,” said manager Diego Simeone afterwards. Elsewhere in Spain, Barcelona have won 97 of 167 derbies with Espanyol, and have lost just three of the last 41 meetings with their local rivals. It is a similar story in west London, where Chelsea have won 46 games against neighbours Fulham, losing just 11. Although they have not always been in the same division, Chelsea have been defeated by Fulham just once, in 2006, since 1979. Chelsea have had the upper hand over Fulham Credit: Getty Images Over in Germany, Bayern Munich have dominated the Munich derby, winning 104 games against 1860 Munich and losing just 50. And on an international level, it is hard to find a more barren run of form than in the early decades of the USA’s rivalry with Mexico. After the Americans won in their first meeting, at the 1934 World Cup, Mexico went on an unbeaten run against the USA that stretched over 46 years and 26 matches until they were finally defeated in 1980. The anomalies In most of these cases, the results are an obvious consequence of the reflective sizes of the two clubs involved. It is no surprise, for example, that a club of Barcelona’s stature is so dominant over the comparably small Espanyol. But sometimes the derby serves as an equaliser, when the size of the various trophy cabinets has no impact on results. The so-called ‘smaller’ clubs can regularly claim the scalps of their ‘bigger’ rivals, or matches between sides at similar levels can become inexplicably uneven. Just look at the recent history of the ‘M23 derby’, between Crystal Palace and Brighton. Palace have had the upper hand, losing just one of the last eight games between the two. The 'M23 derby' is a fiercely-contested derby Credit: Getty And then there’s the East Anglian derby between Ipswich Town and Norwich City, two sides who, by and large, exist at the same echelons of English football. Norwich have not lost to Ipswich in nine matches since 2009. It is also an odd quirk that Stoke City have gone six matches without victory over Port Vale, and have won just two of the last 13 meetings between the two (that said, they have not faced each other since 2002, so those particular figures can appear misleading at first). What of Birmingham and Aston Villa? Here are two sides that played each other regularly in the Premier League in the 00s and have since faced off three times in the Championship, yet Birmingham have not won a league game between them in 11 attempts. The same applies to Sunderland and Newcastle. Both have generally operated at the lower end of the Premier League for the last five years, yet Sunderland’s record is one you would expect of a Champions League team playing a League One side: six wins in their last seven derbies, and no defeats in their last nine. Oxford United and Swindon Town have a similarly unbalanced recent record, with Oxford winning seven of the last eight meetings and going unbeaten in seven matches, in both league and cup competitions, since 2011. Too tight to call Of course, there are also those derbies that are so tightly-contested it is almost impossible to divide the two teams. For this, look no further than Nottingham Forest v Derby. Forest have won 39 times, while Derby have won 37. Burnley’s record against Blackburn Rovers is similarly tight: Burnley have won 41 while Blackburn have won 42. El Clasico is one of the tighest, high-profile rivalries Credit: AP Fulham may not have had much luck against Chelsea, but it’s a far tighter affair with fellow west Londoners QPR, who they have beaten 16 times but lost on 14 occasions. The ultimate in close derbies, though, is El Clasico. Barcelona and Real Madrid have played 172 times, with Real winning 72 and Barcelona winning 68. There’s also just seven goals between them: Real have scored 280, while Barcelona have scored 273.

Exclusive: Manchester United's FA Cup third-round match will not be televised, ending 13-year run 

Manchester United’s 13-year run of 58 televised FA Cup matches has come to an end, with their clash with Derby County next month a shock omission from the third-round games selected for broadcast. Telegraph Sport can also reveal that Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace will play the first competitive match in England in which video replays will be used to overturn refereeing decisions. The clubs’ third-round tie was chosen on Thursday to stage a live trial of so-called Video Assistant Referees (VARs) from the televised fixtures shown by the BBC and BT between January 5-8. Those will kick off with the Merseyside derby on the BBC on the night of Friday, January 5, which was deemed too high-profile a fixture to conduct English football’s first live VAR test. That will be followed on Saturday lunchtime by League One Fleetwood Town or non-league Hereford v Leicester City - Leicester famously bought Jamie Vardy from Fleetwood - again on the BBC. Brighton vs Palace will witness the first VAR used in an FA Cup match Credit: Getty Images BT Sport open that tea-time with Norwich City v Chelsea, while the Sunday games will be Shrewsbury v West Ham United (BBC) and Nottingham Forest v holders Arsenal (BT). BT will also show the history-making ‘M23 derby’ between Brighton and Palace the following evening. The last United cup match not to be shown live on television was the first of their defence of the trophy they won in 2004, a surprise goalless home draw against non-league Exeter City. Their non-selection next month follows a backlash last year against their mundane third-round home clash against Reading being picked ahead of National League Sutton United’s more romantic encounter with AFC Wimbledon. Sutton chairman Bruce Elliott said at the time: “I suppose it’s all down to viewing figures and the bottom line is more people are more likely to watch Man United than they are to watch Sutton United. But what happened to the romance of the FA Cup?” Liverpool's Merseyside clash with Everton will be televised Credit: Reuters Terrestrial broadcasters in particular have struggled to resist picking United’s FA Cup ties given there are few opportunities for them to show the club which regularly attracts the biggest UK TV audience. The Football Association announced its intention in March to use VARs in this season’s FA Cup from the third round onwards. Trials look set to be limited to televised games at Premier League grounds, which have the infrastructure necessary for the technology to be properly implemented. Only Liverpool v Everton and Brighton v Palace fulfilled that criteria from next month’s fixtures and the decision not to pick the former match may raise questions about the FA’s confidence in the system. The Telegraph revealed last year that secret video technology trials were being conducted during Premier League matches in preparation for the advent of VAR in England. The non-live experiments, which are ongoing, have been used to train referees and VARs with a view to them being ready for an anticipated change to the laws of the game in March and a full global rollout from the World Cup onwards. Live testing, meanwhile, is continuing in international friendly matches - the first in England was last month’s goalless draw against Germany at Wembley - and in competitions signed up to the trials. That includes in this season’s Bundesliga, where the use of VARs has been mired in controversy. Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years? Hellmut Krug, the former international referee appointed to oversee the system, was sidelined in October after being accused of unduly influencing two VAR penalty decisions in Schalke’s 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg. He denied having done so. The only incidents eligible to be overturned by video review under a protocol laid down by the International Football Association Board are goals, penalties, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

Exclusive: Manchester United's FA Cup third-round match will not be televised, ending 13-year run 

Manchester United’s 13-year run of 58 televised FA Cup matches has come to an end, with their clash with Derby County next month a shock omission from the third-round games selected for broadcast. Telegraph Sport can also reveal that Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace will play the first competitive match in England in which video replays will be used to overturn refereeing decisions. The clubs’ third-round tie was chosen on Thursday to stage a live trial of so-called Video Assistant Referees (VARs) from the televised fixtures shown by the BBC and BT between January 5-8. Those will kick off with the Merseyside derby on the BBC on the night of Friday, January 5, which was deemed too high-profile a fixture to conduct English football’s first live VAR test. That will be followed on Saturday lunchtime by League One Fleetwood Town or non-league Hereford v Leicester City - Leicester famously bought Jamie Vardy from Fleetwood - again on the BBC. Brighton vs Palace will witness the first VAR used in an FA Cup match Credit: Getty Images BT Sport open that tea-time with Norwich City v Chelsea, while the Sunday games will be Shrewsbury v West Ham United (BBC) and Nottingham Forest v holders Arsenal (BT). BT will also show the history-making ‘M23 derby’ between Brighton and Palace the following evening. The last United cup match not to be shown live on television was the first of their defence of the trophy they won in 2004, a surprise goalless home draw against non-league Exeter City. Their non-selection next month follows a backlash last year against their mundane third-round home clash against Reading being picked ahead of National League Sutton United’s more romantic encounter with AFC Wimbledon. Sutton chairman Bruce Elliott said at the time: “I suppose it’s all down to viewing figures and the bottom line is more people are more likely to watch Man United than they are to watch Sutton United. But what happened to the romance of the FA Cup?” Liverpool's Merseyside clash with Everton will be televised Credit: Reuters Terrestrial broadcasters in particular have struggled to resist picking United’s FA Cup ties given there are few opportunities for them to show the club which regularly attracts the biggest UK TV audience. The Football Association announced its intention in March to use VARs in this season’s FA Cup from the third round onwards. Trials look set to be limited to televised games at Premier League grounds, which have the infrastructure necessary for the technology to be properly implemented. Only Liverpool v Everton and Brighton v Palace fulfilled that criteria from next month’s fixtures and the decision not to pick the former match may raise questions about the FA’s confidence in the system. The Telegraph revealed last year that secret video technology trials were being conducted during Premier League matches in preparation for the advent of VAR in England. The non-live experiments, which are ongoing, have been used to train referees and VARs with a view to them being ready for an anticipated change to the laws of the game in March and a full global rollout from the World Cup onwards. Live testing, meanwhile, is continuing in international friendly matches - the first in England was last month’s goalless draw against Germany at Wembley - and in competitions signed up to the trials. That includes in this season’s Bundesliga, where the use of VARs has been mired in controversy. Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years? Hellmut Krug, the former international referee appointed to oversee the system, was sidelined in October after being accused of unduly influencing two VAR penalty decisions in Schalke’s 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg. He denied having done so. The only incidents eligible to be overturned by video review under a protocol laid down by the International Football Association Board are goals, penalties, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

Exclusive: Manchester United's FA Cup third-round match will not be televised, ending 13-year run 

Manchester United’s 13-year run of 58 televised FA Cup matches has come to an end, with their clash with Derby County next month a shock omission from the third-round games selected for broadcast. Telegraph Sport can also reveal that Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace will play the first competitive match in England in which video replays will be used to overturn refereeing decisions. The clubs’ third-round tie was chosen on Thursday to stage a live trial of so-called Video Assistant Referees (VARs) from the televised fixtures shown by the BBC and BT between January 5-8. Those will kick off with the Merseyside derby on the BBC on the night of Friday, January 5, which was deemed too high-profile a fixture to conduct English football’s first live VAR test. That will be followed on Saturday lunchtime by League One Fleetwood Town or non-league Hereford v Leicester City - Leicester famously bought Jamie Vardy from Fleetwood - again on the BBC. Brighton vs Palace will witness the first VAR used in an FA Cup match Credit: Getty Images BT Sport open that tea-time with Norwich City v Chelsea, while the Sunday games will be Shrewsbury v West Ham United (BBC) and Nottingham Forest v holders Arsenal (BT). BT will also show the history-making ‘M23 derby’ between Brighton and Palace the following evening. The last United cup match not to be shown live on television was the first of their defence of the trophy they won in 2004, a surprise goalless home draw against non-league Exeter City. Their non-selection next month follows a backlash last year against their mundane third-round home clash against Reading being picked ahead of National League Sutton United’s more romantic encounter with AFC Wimbledon. Sutton chairman Bruce Elliott said at the time: “I suppose it’s all down to viewing figures and the bottom line is more people are more likely to watch Man United than they are to watch Sutton United. But what happened to the romance of the FA Cup?” Liverpool's Merseyside clash with Everton will be televised Credit: Reuters Terrestrial broadcasters in particular have struggled to resist picking United’s FA Cup ties given there are few opportunities for them to show the club which regularly attracts the biggest UK TV audience. The Football Association announced its intention in March to use VARs in this season’s FA Cup from the third round onwards. Trials look set to be limited to televised games at Premier League grounds, which have the infrastructure necessary for the technology to be properly implemented. Only Liverpool v Everton and Brighton v Palace fulfilled that criteria from next month’s fixtures and the decision not to pick the former match may raise questions about the FA’s confidence in the system. The Telegraph revealed last year that secret video technology trials were being conducted during Premier League matches in preparation for the advent of VAR in England. The non-live experiments, which are ongoing, have been used to train referees and VARs with a view to them being ready for an anticipated change to the laws of the game in March and a full global rollout from the World Cup onwards. Live testing, meanwhile, is continuing in international friendly matches - the first in England was last month’s goalless draw against Germany at Wembley - and in competitions signed up to the trials. That includes in this season’s Bundesliga, where the use of VARs has been mired in controversy. Modern heroes: Who has done most for your club in the last 20 years? Hellmut Krug, the former international referee appointed to oversee the system, was sidelined in October after being accused of unduly influencing two VAR penalty decisions in Schalke’s 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg. He denied having done so. The only incidents eligible to be overturned by video review under a protocol laid down by the International Football Association Board are goals, penalties, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

FA Cup third-round draw in full: Liverpool v Everton and Brighton v Crystal Palace the stand-out ties

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup has produced a series of major derbies, including a first match at this stage of the competition since 1932 between Liverpool and Everton. Jurgen Klopp and Sam Allardyce’s teams were paired together during Monday night’s draw, as were Premier League rivals Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion. North-East neighbours Sunderland and Middlesbrough, who have both been relegated in recent years to the Championship, were also drawn together. Arsenal, who are attempting to win the trophy for a fourth time in five years, will begin their defence at Nottingham Forest. Other especially eye-catching fixtures include AFC Wimbledon’s return to Wembley in the FA Cup some 30 years on from their memorable triumph in 1988 to face Tottenham Hotspur.  Luton Town, now of League Two and the FA Cup finalists in 1959, also have glamorous away Premier League opponents in Newcastle United. Premier League leaders Manchester City have a tricky home tie against Sean Dyche’s Burnley, while Manchester United host Derby County and Chelsea are away at Norwich City. Who will be lifting the FA Cup come what May? Credit: Getty Images  Hereford, who are in the seventh tier of the football pyramid, will face 2016 Premier League champions Leicester City if they manage to overcome Fleetwood in their second-round replay. Four non-league sides were involved in the draw, which was conducted by Glenn Hoddle and Jermain Jenas ahead of the second-round match between Slough Town and Rochdale, but none are currently guaranteed a place in the third round. National League club AFC Fylde will have the opportunity to face Premier League opposition in Bournemouth if they beat Wigan Athletic in their replay. Woking, who also play in the fifth tier of the pyramid, have the chance to play at Villa Park against Aston Villa if they beat Peterborough in their replay. The ties will take place on Jan 5-7, with timings dependent on which matches are selected for live screening by BBC and BT Sport. There was criticism last year that broadcasters often opted to show big Premier League clubs rather than the more romantic ties, such as the third-round fixture between non-league Sutton United and AFC Wimbledon. Sutton did eventually make it to a televised tie against Arsenal in the fifth round. Arsenal subsequently beat Manchester City and Chelsea in the semi-final and final to win what was a record 13th FA Cup. The draw in full: Ipswich v Sheffield United Watford v Bristol City Birmingham v Burton Liverpool v Everton Brighton v Crystal Palace Aston Villa v Woking or Peterborough Bournemouth v AFC Fylde or Wigan Coventry v Stoke Arsene Wenger's Arsenal travel to Nottingham Forest Newport v Leeds Bolton v Huddersfield Port Vale or Yeovil v Bradford Nottingham Forest v Arsenal Brentford v Notts County QPR v MK Dons Manchester United v Derby Forest Green or Exeter v West Brom Doncaster v Slough Town or Rochdale Tottenham v AFC Wimbledon Middlesbrough v Sunderland Fleetwood or Hereford v Leicester Blackburn or Crewe v Hull Cardiff v Mansfield Manchester City v Burnley Shrewsbury v West Ham Wolves v Swansea Stevenage v Reading Newcastle v Luton Millwall v Barnsley Fulham v Southampton Wycombe v Preston Norwich v Chelsea Gillingham or Carlisle v Sheffield Wednesday Ties to be played January 5-7 7:27PM One for the ages?  Another exciting looking tie is 2016 Premier League champions away at Hereford United (if Hereford can win their replay against Fleetwood Town.  7:23PM That concludes the draw No doubts about the tie of the round there...Liverpool will host Everton! There's also Brighton vs Crystal Palace and Bournemouth at home against non-league Fylde or Wigan.  7:22PM Last up Gillingham or Carlisle vs Sheffield Wednesday 7:21PM Tough draw Norwich Norwich City vs Chelsea 7:21PM Next Wycombe Wanderers vs Preston North End 7:21PM Next up Fulham vs Southampton 7:21PM All-Championship tie Millwall vs Barnsley 7:20PM Home banker?  Newcastle vs Luton Town 7:20PM Next up Stevenage vs Reading 7:20PM The home side could be the favourites here Wolves vs Swansea 7:20PM Another giant-killing for Shrewsbury?  Shrewsbury Town vs West Ham 7:20PM All Premier League tie Manchester City vs Burnley 7:19PM Next up Cardiff City vs Mansfield Town 7:19PM Upset alert Blackburn or Crewe vs Hull City 7:19PM Great draw Fleetwood Town or Hereford vs Leicester City 7:19PM Tees-Wear derby Middlesbrough vs Sunderland 7:18PM London derby Tottenham Hotspur vs AFC Wimbledon 7:18PM The Slough fans seem a bit upset... Doncaster Rovers vs Slough Town or Rochdale 7:18PM Banana skin?  Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City vs West Brom 7:17PM United are up against... Manchester United vs Derby County 7:17PM Next up QPR vs MK Dons 7:17PM Next up Brentford vs Notts County 7:16PM The holders will play... Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal 7:16PM Next Port Vale or Yeovil Town v Bradford City 7:16PM Local derby Bolton Wanderers vs Huddersfield Town 7:16PM Next up Newport County vs Leeds United 7:16PM A tale of two cities Coventry City vs Stoke City 7:15PM Potentially a huge trip for non-league Fylde Bournemouth vs AFC Fylde or Wigan 7:15PM Less exciting Aston Villa vs Woking or Peterborough United 7:15PM And another big rivalry! Brighton vs Crystal Palace 7:14PM Would you believe it?!  Liverpool vs Everton 7:14PM Next Birmingham City vs Burton Albion 7:14PM Next Watford vs Bristol City 7:14PM First up Ipswich Town vs Sheffield United 7:12PM Here we go Jake Humphrey is the host, and the venue is Slough Town's home ground Holloways Park ahead of Slough's FA Cup second round match tonight against Rochdale.  Glenn Hoddle and Jermaine Jenas will make the draw.  7:01PM Nearly there The draw will be getting under way in around about 10 minutes. Hereford v Newcastle? Wrexham v Arsenal? Sutton v Coventry? Yep, the BBC's montage has them all.  6:28PM An English institution Evening all, Welcome to our coverage of one of the great days in the English sporting calendar. Yes we are just minutes away from seeing which lower-league teams will get a chance to lose 3-0 against the second string of one of the Premier League's leading lights. For these part-time plumbers and postmen, the opportunity to test themselves against Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Darmian is just a draw of a ball away. There is also the opportunity to be patronised the hell out of by BBC commentators and possibly go down in football folklore for ever more. Think Ronny Radford scoring for Hereford against Newcastle, Mickey Thomas for Wrexham against Arsenal, er Nigel Jemson for Shrewsbury against Everton.  The third round stage is of course when all the Premier League and Championship teams join the competition, and alongside them will be four non-league teams in the pot - AFC Fylde, Hereford, Slough and Woking. Arsenal are the current FA Cup holders Credit: AP Woking you may recall have some pedigree in this competition. In January 1991 the Surrey-based side pulled off one of the great FA Cup shocks when as a Conference team they knocked out second-tier outfit West Brom 4-2 at the Hawthorns. They were then beaten 1-0 by top-flight side Everton in the fourth round.     More recently, Woking reached the third round in 1997 and took Premier League side Coventry to a replay which they narrowly lost 2-1. But enough about Woking. Tonight's draw gets under way at around 7pm, and precedes the second round match between seventh-tier Slough Town and League One side Rochdale.  Here are the ball numbers in full: Bournemouth Arsenal Aston Villa Barnsley Birmingham City Bolton Brentford Brighton Bristol City Burnley Burton Albion Cardiff City Chelsea Crystal Palace Derby County Everton Fulham  Huddersfield Hull City Ipswich Town Leeds United Leicester Liverpool Manchester City Manchester United Middlesbrough Millwall Newcastle Norwich City Nottingham Forest Preston North End QPR Reading Sheffield United Sheffield Wednesday Southampton Stoke  Sunderland Swansea Tottenham Watford West Brom West Ham Wolves Woking or Peterborough MK Dons Newport County Wycombe Wanderers Port Vale/Yeovil Shrewsbury Town Doncaster Rovers Slough Town or Rochdale AFC Wimbledon Stevenage Mansfield Town Luton Town Bradford City Blackburn/Crewe AFC Fylde or Wigan Gillingham or Carlisle Notts County Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City Fleetwood Town or Hereford Coventry City

FA Cup third-round draw in full: Liverpool v Everton and Brighton v Crystal Palace the stand-out ties

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup has produced a series of major derbies, including a first match at this stage of the competition since 1932 between Liverpool and Everton. Jurgen Klopp and Sam Allardyce’s teams were paired together during Monday night’s draw, as were Premier League rivals Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion. North-East neighbours Sunderland and Middlesbrough, who have both been relegated in recent years to the Championship, were also drawn together. Arsenal, who are attempting to win the trophy for a fourth time in five years, will begin their defence at Nottingham Forest. Other especially eye-catching fixtures include AFC Wimbledon’s return to Wembley in the FA Cup some 30 years on from their memorable triumph in 1988 to face Tottenham Hotspur.  Luton Town, now of League Two and the FA Cup finalists in 1959, also have glamorous away Premier League opponents in Newcastle United. Premier League leaders Manchester City have a tricky home tie against Sean Dyche’s Burnley, while Manchester United host Derby County and Chelsea are away at Norwich City. Who will be lifting the FA Cup come what May? Credit: Getty Images  Hereford, who are in the seventh tier of the football pyramid, will face 2016 Premier League champions Leicester City if they manage to overcome Fleetwood in their second-round replay. Four non-league sides were involved in the draw, which was conducted by Glenn Hoddle and Jermain Jenas ahead of the second-round match between Slough Town and Rochdale, but none are currently guaranteed a place in the third round. National League club AFC Fylde will have the opportunity to face Premier League opposition in Bournemouth if they beat Wigan Athletic in their replay. Woking, who also play in the fifth tier of the pyramid, have the chance to play at Villa Park against Aston Villa if they beat Peterborough in their replay. The ties will take place on Jan 5-7, with timings dependent on which matches are selected for live screening by BBC and BT Sport. There was criticism last year that broadcasters often opted to show big Premier League clubs rather than the more romantic ties, such as the third-round fixture between non-league Sutton United and AFC Wimbledon. Sutton did eventually make it to a televised tie against Arsenal in the fifth round. Arsenal subsequently beat Manchester City and Chelsea in the semi-final and final to win what was a record 13th FA Cup. The draw in full: Ipswich v Sheffield United Watford v Bristol City Birmingham v Burton Liverpool v Everton Brighton v Crystal Palace Aston Villa v Woking or Peterborough Bournemouth v AFC Fylde or Wigan Coventry v Stoke Arsene Wenger's Arsenal travel to Nottingham Forest Newport v Leeds Bolton v Huddersfield Port Vale or Yeovil v Bradford Nottingham Forest v Arsenal Brentford v Notts County QPR v MK Dons Manchester United v Derby Forest Green or Exeter v West Brom Doncaster v Slough Town or Rochdale Tottenham v AFC Wimbledon Middlesbrough v Sunderland Fleetwood or Hereford v Leicester Blackburn or Crewe v Hull Cardiff v Mansfield Manchester City v Burnley Shrewsbury v West Ham Wolves v Swansea Stevenage v Reading Newcastle v Luton Millwall v Barnsley Fulham v Southampton Wycombe v Preston Norwich v Chelsea Gillingham or Carlisle v Sheffield Wednesday Ties to be played January 5-7 7:27PM One for the ages?  Another exciting looking tie is 2016 Premier League champions away at Hereford United (if Hereford can win their replay against Fleetwood Town.  7:23PM That concludes the draw No doubts about the tie of the round there...Liverpool will host Everton! There's also Brighton vs Crystal Palace and Bournemouth at home against non-league Fylde or Wigan.  7:22PM Last up Gillingham or Carlisle vs Sheffield Wednesday 7:21PM Tough draw Norwich Norwich City vs Chelsea 7:21PM Next Wycombe Wanderers vs Preston North End 7:21PM Next up Fulham vs Southampton 7:21PM All-Championship tie Millwall vs Barnsley 7:20PM Home banker?  Newcastle vs Luton Town 7:20PM Next up Stevenage vs Reading 7:20PM The home side could be the favourites here Wolves vs Swansea 7:20PM Another giant-killing for Shrewsbury?  Shrewsbury Town vs West Ham 7:20PM All Premier League tie Manchester City vs Burnley 7:19PM Next up Cardiff City vs Mansfield Town 7:19PM Upset alert Blackburn or Crewe vs Hull City 7:19PM Great draw Fleetwood Town or Hereford vs Leicester City 7:19PM Tees-Wear derby Middlesbrough vs Sunderland 7:18PM London derby Tottenham Hotspur vs AFC Wimbledon 7:18PM The Slough fans seem a bit upset... Doncaster Rovers vs Slough Town or Rochdale 7:18PM Banana skin?  Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City vs West Brom 7:17PM United are up against... Manchester United vs Derby County 7:17PM Next up QPR vs MK Dons 7:17PM Next up Brentford vs Notts County 7:16PM The holders will play... Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal 7:16PM Next Port Vale or Yeovil Town v Bradford City 7:16PM Local derby Bolton Wanderers vs Huddersfield Town 7:16PM Next up Newport County vs Leeds United 7:16PM A tale of two cities Coventry City vs Stoke City 7:15PM Potentially a huge trip for non-league Fylde Bournemouth vs AFC Fylde or Wigan 7:15PM Less exciting Aston Villa vs Woking or Peterborough United 7:15PM And another big rivalry! Brighton vs Crystal Palace 7:14PM Would you believe it?!  Liverpool vs Everton 7:14PM Next Birmingham City vs Burton Albion 7:14PM Next Watford vs Bristol City 7:14PM First up Ipswich Town vs Sheffield United 7:12PM Here we go Jake Humphrey is the host, and the venue is Slough Town's home ground Holloways Park ahead of Slough's FA Cup second round match tonight against Rochdale.  Glenn Hoddle and Jermaine Jenas will make the draw.  7:01PM Nearly there The draw will be getting under way in around about 10 minutes. Hereford v Newcastle? Wrexham v Arsenal? Sutton v Coventry? Yep, the BBC's montage has them all.  6:28PM An English institution Evening all, Welcome to our coverage of one of the great days in the English sporting calendar. Yes we are just minutes away from seeing which lower-league teams will get a chance to lose 3-0 against the second string of one of the Premier League's leading lights. For these part-time plumbers and postmen, the opportunity to test themselves against Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Darmian is just a draw of a ball away. There is also the opportunity to be patronised the hell out of by BBC commentators and possibly go down in football folklore for ever more. Think Ronny Radford scoring for Hereford against Newcastle, Mickey Thomas for Wrexham against Arsenal, er Nigel Jemson for Shrewsbury against Everton.  The third round stage is of course when all the Premier League and Championship teams join the competition, and alongside them will be four non-league teams in the pot - AFC Fylde, Hereford, Slough and Woking. Arsenal are the current FA Cup holders Credit: AP Woking you may recall have some pedigree in this competition. In January 1991 the Surrey-based side pulled off one of the great FA Cup shocks when as a Conference team they knocked out second-tier outfit West Brom 4-2 at the Hawthorns. They were then beaten 1-0 by top-flight side Everton in the fourth round.     More recently, Woking reached the third round in 1997 and took Premier League side Coventry to a replay which they narrowly lost 2-1. But enough about Woking. Tonight's draw gets under way at around 7pm, and precedes the second round match between seventh-tier Slough Town and League One side Rochdale.  Here are the ball numbers in full: Bournemouth Arsenal Aston Villa Barnsley Birmingham City Bolton Brentford Brighton Bristol City Burnley Burton Albion Cardiff City Chelsea Crystal Palace Derby County Everton Fulham  Huddersfield Hull City Ipswich Town Leeds United Leicester Liverpool Manchester City Manchester United Middlesbrough Millwall Newcastle Norwich City Nottingham Forest Preston North End QPR Reading Sheffield United Sheffield Wednesday Southampton Stoke  Sunderland Swansea Tottenham Watford West Brom West Ham Wolves Woking or Peterborough MK Dons Newport County Wycombe Wanderers Port Vale/Yeovil Shrewsbury Town Doncaster Rovers Slough Town or Rochdale AFC Wimbledon Stevenage Mansfield Town Luton Town Bradford City Blackburn/Crewe AFC Fylde or Wigan Gillingham or Carlisle Notts County Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City Fleetwood Town or Hereford Coventry City

FA Cup third-round draw in full: Liverpool v Everton and Brighton v Crystal Palace the stand-out ties

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup has produced a series of major derbies, including a first match at this stage of the competition since 1932 between Liverpool and Everton. Jurgen Klopp and Sam Allardyce’s teams were paired together during Monday night’s draw, as were Premier League rivals Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion. North-East neighbours Sunderland and Middlesbrough, who have both been relegated in recent years to the Championship, were also drawn together. Arsenal, who are attempting to win the trophy for a fourth time in five years, will begin their defence at Nottingham Forest. Other especially eye-catching fixtures include AFC Wimbledon’s return to Wembley in the FA Cup some 30 years on from their memorable triumph in 1988 to face Tottenham Hotspur.  Luton Town, now of League Two and the FA Cup finalists in 1959, also have glamorous away Premier League opponents in Newcastle United. Premier League leaders Manchester City have a tricky home tie against Sean Dyche’s Burnley, while Manchester United host Derby County and Chelsea are away at Norwich City. Who will be lifting the FA Cup come what May? Credit: Getty Images  Hereford, who are in the seventh tier of the football pyramid, will face 2016 Premier League champions Leicester City if they manage to overcome Fleetwood in their second-round replay. Four non-league sides were involved in the draw, which was conducted by Glenn Hoddle and Jermain Jenas ahead of the second-round match between Slough Town and Rochdale, but none are currently guaranteed a place in the third round. National League club AFC Fylde will have the opportunity to face Premier League opposition in Bournemouth if they beat Wigan Athletic in their replay. Woking, who also play in the fifth tier of the pyramid, have the chance to play at Villa Park against Aston Villa if they beat Peterborough in their replay. The ties will take place on Jan 5-7, with timings dependent on which matches are selected for live screening by BBC and BT Sport. There was criticism last year that broadcasters often opted to show big Premier League clubs rather than the more romantic ties, such as the third-round fixture between non-league Sutton United and AFC Wimbledon. Sutton did eventually make it to a televised tie against Arsenal in the fifth round. Arsenal subsequently beat Manchester City and Chelsea in the semi-final and final to win what was a record 13th FA Cup. The draw in full: Ipswich v Sheffield United Watford v Bristol City Birmingham v Burton Liverpool v Everton Brighton v Crystal Palace Aston Villa v Woking or Peterborough Bournemouth v AFC Fylde or Wigan Coventry v Stoke Arsene Wenger's Arsenal travel to Nottingham Forest Newport v Leeds Bolton v Huddersfield Port Vale or Yeovil v Bradford Nottingham Forest v Arsenal Brentford v Notts County QPR v MK Dons Manchester United v Derby Forest Green or Exeter v West Brom Doncaster v Slough Town or Rochdale Tottenham v AFC Wimbledon Middlesbrough v Sunderland Fleetwood or Hereford v Leicester Blackburn or Crewe v Hull Cardiff v Mansfield Manchester City v Burnley Shrewsbury v West Ham Wolves v Swansea Stevenage v Reading Newcastle v Luton Millwall v Barnsley Fulham v Southampton Wycombe v Preston Norwich v Chelsea Gillingham or Carlisle v Sheffield Wednesday Ties to be played January 5-7 7:27PM One for the ages?  Another exciting looking tie is 2016 Premier League champions away at Hereford United (if Hereford can win their replay against Fleetwood Town.  7:23PM That concludes the draw No doubts about the tie of the round there...Liverpool will host Everton! There's also Brighton vs Crystal Palace and Bournemouth at home against non-league Fylde or Wigan.  7:22PM Last up Gillingham or Carlisle vs Sheffield Wednesday 7:21PM Tough draw Norwich Norwich City vs Chelsea 7:21PM Next Wycombe Wanderers vs Preston North End 7:21PM Next up Fulham vs Southampton 7:21PM All-Championship tie Millwall vs Barnsley 7:20PM Home banker?  Newcastle vs Luton Town 7:20PM Next up Stevenage vs Reading 7:20PM The home side could be the favourites here Wolves vs Swansea 7:20PM Another giant-killing for Shrewsbury?  Shrewsbury Town vs West Ham 7:20PM All Premier League tie Manchester City vs Burnley 7:19PM Next up Cardiff City vs Mansfield Town 7:19PM Upset alert Blackburn or Crewe vs Hull City 7:19PM Great draw Fleetwood Town or Hereford vs Leicester City 7:19PM Tees-Wear derby Middlesbrough vs Sunderland 7:18PM London derby Tottenham Hotspur vs AFC Wimbledon 7:18PM The Slough fans seem a bit upset... Doncaster Rovers vs Slough Town or Rochdale 7:18PM Banana skin?  Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City vs West Brom 7:17PM United are up against... Manchester United vs Derby County 7:17PM Next up QPR vs MK Dons 7:17PM Next up Brentford vs Notts County 7:16PM The holders will play... Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal 7:16PM Next Port Vale or Yeovil Town v Bradford City 7:16PM Local derby Bolton Wanderers vs Huddersfield Town 7:16PM Next up Newport County vs Leeds United 7:16PM A tale of two cities Coventry City vs Stoke City 7:15PM Potentially a huge trip for non-league Fylde Bournemouth vs AFC Fylde or Wigan 7:15PM Less exciting Aston Villa vs Woking or Peterborough United 7:15PM And another big rivalry! Brighton vs Crystal Palace 7:14PM Would you believe it?!  Liverpool vs Everton 7:14PM Next Birmingham City vs Burton Albion 7:14PM Next Watford vs Bristol City 7:14PM First up Ipswich Town vs Sheffield United 7:12PM Here we go Jake Humphrey is the host, and the venue is Slough Town's home ground Holloways Park ahead of Slough's FA Cup second round match tonight against Rochdale.  Glenn Hoddle and Jermaine Jenas will make the draw.  7:01PM Nearly there The draw will be getting under way in around about 10 minutes. Hereford v Newcastle? Wrexham v Arsenal? Sutton v Coventry? Yep, the BBC's montage has them all.  6:28PM An English institution Evening all, Welcome to our coverage of one of the great days in the English sporting calendar. Yes we are just minutes away from seeing which lower-league teams will get a chance to lose 3-0 against the second string of one of the Premier League's leading lights. For these part-time plumbers and postmen, the opportunity to test themselves against Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Darmian is just a draw of a ball away. There is also the opportunity to be patronised the hell out of by BBC commentators and possibly go down in football folklore for ever more. Think Ronny Radford scoring for Hereford against Newcastle, Mickey Thomas for Wrexham against Arsenal, er Nigel Jemson for Shrewsbury against Everton.  The third round stage is of course when all the Premier League and Championship teams join the competition, and alongside them will be four non-league teams in the pot - AFC Fylde, Hereford, Slough and Woking. Arsenal are the current FA Cup holders Credit: AP Woking you may recall have some pedigree in this competition. In January 1991 the Surrey-based side pulled off one of the great FA Cup shocks when as a Conference team they knocked out second-tier outfit West Brom 4-2 at the Hawthorns. They were then beaten 1-0 by top-flight side Everton in the fourth round.     More recently, Woking reached the third round in 1997 and took Premier League side Coventry to a replay which they narrowly lost 2-1. But enough about Woking. Tonight's draw gets under way at around 7pm, and precedes the second round match between seventh-tier Slough Town and League One side Rochdale.  Here are the ball numbers in full: Bournemouth Arsenal Aston Villa Barnsley Birmingham City Bolton Brentford Brighton Bristol City Burnley Burton Albion Cardiff City Chelsea Crystal Palace Derby County Everton Fulham  Huddersfield Hull City Ipswich Town Leeds United Leicester Liverpool Manchester City Manchester United Middlesbrough Millwall Newcastle Norwich City Nottingham Forest Preston North End QPR Reading Sheffield United Sheffield Wednesday Southampton Stoke  Sunderland Swansea Tottenham Watford West Brom West Ham Wolves Woking or Peterborough MK Dons Newport County Wycombe Wanderers Port Vale/Yeovil Shrewsbury Town Doncaster Rovers Slough Town or Rochdale AFC Wimbledon Stevenage Mansfield Town Luton Town Bradford City Blackburn/Crewe AFC Fylde or Wigan Gillingham or Carlisle Notts County Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City Fleetwood Town or Hereford Coventry City

FA Cup third-round draw in full: Liverpool v Everton and Brighton v Crystal Palace the stand-out ties

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup has produced a series of major derbies, including a first match at this stage of the competition since 1932 between Liverpool and Everton. Jurgen Klopp and Sam Allardyce’s teams were paired together during Monday night’s draw, as were Premier League rivals Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion. North-East neighbours Sunderland and Middlesbrough, who have both been relegated in recent years to the Championship, were also drawn together. Arsenal, who are attempting to win the trophy for a fourth time in five years, will begin their defence at Nottingham Forest. Other especially eye-catching fixtures include AFC Wimbledon’s return to Wembley in the FA Cup some 30 years on from their memorable triumph in 1988 to face Tottenham Hotspur.  Luton Town, now of League Two and the FA Cup finalists in 1959, also have glamorous away Premier League opponents in Newcastle United. Premier League leaders Manchester City have a tricky home tie against Sean Dyche’s Burnley, while Manchester United host Derby County and Chelsea are away at Norwich City. Who will be lifting the FA Cup come what May? Credit: Getty Images  Hereford, who are in the seventh tier of the football pyramid, will face 2016 Premier League champions Leicester City if they manage to overcome Fleetwood in their second-round replay. Four non-league sides were involved in the draw, which was conducted by Glenn Hoddle and Jermain Jenas ahead of the second-round match between Slough Town and Rochdale, but none are currently guaranteed a place in the third round. National League club AFC Fylde will have the opportunity to face Premier League opposition in Bournemouth if they beat Wigan Athletic in their replay. Woking, who also play in the fifth tier of the pyramid, have the chance to play at Villa Park against Aston Villa if they beat Peterborough in their replay. The ties will take place on Jan 5-7, with timings dependent on which matches are selected for live screening by BBC and BT Sport. There was criticism last year that broadcasters often opted to show big Premier League clubs rather than the more romantic ties, such as the third-round fixture between non-league Sutton United and AFC Wimbledon. Sutton did eventually make it to a televised tie against Arsenal in the fifth round. Arsenal subsequently beat Manchester City and Chelsea in the semi-final and final to win what was a record 13th FA Cup. The draw in full: Ipswich v Sheffield United Watford v Bristol City Birmingham v Burton Liverpool v Everton Brighton v Crystal Palace Aston Villa v Woking or Peterborough Bournemouth v AFC Fylde or Wigan Coventry v Stoke Arsene Wenger's Arsenal travel to Nottingham Forest Newport v Leeds Bolton v Huddersfield Port Vale or Yeovil v Bradford Nottingham Forest v Arsenal Brentford v Notts County QPR v MK Dons Manchester United v Derby Forest Green or Exeter v West Brom Doncaster v Slough Town or Rochdale Tottenham v AFC Wimbledon Middlesbrough v Sunderland Fleetwood or Hereford v Leicester Blackburn or Crewe v Hull Cardiff v Mansfield Manchester City v Burnley Shrewsbury v West Ham Wolves v Swansea Stevenage v Reading Newcastle v Luton Millwall v Barnsley Fulham v Southampton Wycombe v Preston Norwich v Chelsea Gillingham or Carlisle v Sheffield Wednesday Ties to be played January 5-7 7:27PM One for the ages?  Another exciting looking tie is 2016 Premier League champions away at Hereford United (if Hereford can win their replay against Fleetwood Town.  7:23PM That concludes the draw No doubts about the tie of the round there...Liverpool will host Everton! There's also Brighton vs Crystal Palace and Bournemouth at home against non-league Fylde or Wigan.  7:22PM Last up Gillingham or Carlisle vs Sheffield Wednesday 7:21PM Tough draw Norwich Norwich City vs Chelsea 7:21PM Next Wycombe Wanderers vs Preston North End 7:21PM Next up Fulham vs Southampton 7:21PM All-Championship tie Millwall vs Barnsley 7:20PM Home banker?  Newcastle vs Luton Town 7:20PM Next up Stevenage vs Reading 7:20PM The home side could be the favourites here Wolves vs Swansea 7:20PM Another giant-killing for Shrewsbury?  Shrewsbury Town vs West Ham 7:20PM All Premier League tie Manchester City vs Burnley 7:19PM Next up Cardiff City vs Mansfield Town 7:19PM Upset alert Blackburn or Crewe vs Hull City 7:19PM Great draw Fleetwood Town or Hereford vs Leicester City 7:19PM Tees-Wear derby Middlesbrough vs Sunderland 7:18PM London derby Tottenham Hotspur vs AFC Wimbledon 7:18PM The Slough fans seem a bit upset... Doncaster Rovers vs Slough Town or Rochdale 7:18PM Banana skin?  Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City vs West Brom 7:17PM United are up against... Manchester United vs Derby County 7:17PM Next up QPR vs MK Dons 7:17PM Next up Brentford vs Notts County 7:16PM The holders will play... Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal 7:16PM Next Port Vale or Yeovil Town v Bradford City 7:16PM Local derby Bolton Wanderers vs Huddersfield Town 7:16PM Next up Newport County vs Leeds United 7:16PM A tale of two cities Coventry City vs Stoke City 7:15PM Potentially a huge trip for non-league Fylde Bournemouth vs AFC Fylde or Wigan 7:15PM Less exciting Aston Villa vs Woking or Peterborough United 7:15PM And another big rivalry! Brighton vs Crystal Palace 7:14PM Would you believe it?!  Liverpool vs Everton 7:14PM Next Birmingham City vs Burton Albion 7:14PM Next Watford vs Bristol City 7:14PM First up Ipswich Town vs Sheffield United 7:12PM Here we go Jake Humphrey is the host, and the venue is Slough Town's home ground Holloways Park ahead of Slough's FA Cup second round match tonight against Rochdale.  Glenn Hoddle and Jermaine Jenas will make the draw.  7:01PM Nearly there The draw will be getting under way in around about 10 minutes. Hereford v Newcastle? Wrexham v Arsenal? Sutton v Coventry? Yep, the BBC's montage has them all.  6:28PM An English institution Evening all, Welcome to our coverage of one of the great days in the English sporting calendar. Yes we are just minutes away from seeing which lower-league teams will get a chance to lose 3-0 against the second string of one of the Premier League's leading lights. For these part-time plumbers and postmen, the opportunity to test themselves against Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Darmian is just a draw of a ball away. There is also the opportunity to be patronised the hell out of by BBC commentators and possibly go down in football folklore for ever more. Think Ronny Radford scoring for Hereford against Newcastle, Mickey Thomas for Wrexham against Arsenal, er Nigel Jemson for Shrewsbury against Everton.  The third round stage is of course when all the Premier League and Championship teams join the competition, and alongside them will be four non-league teams in the pot - AFC Fylde, Hereford, Slough and Woking. Arsenal are the current FA Cup holders Credit: AP Woking you may recall have some pedigree in this competition. In January 1991 the Surrey-based side pulled off one of the great FA Cup shocks when as a Conference team they knocked out second-tier outfit West Brom 4-2 at the Hawthorns. They were then beaten 1-0 by top-flight side Everton in the fourth round.     More recently, Woking reached the third round in 1997 and took Premier League side Coventry to a replay which they narrowly lost 2-1. But enough about Woking. Tonight's draw gets under way at around 7pm, and precedes the second round match between seventh-tier Slough Town and League One side Rochdale.  Here are the ball numbers in full: Bournemouth Arsenal Aston Villa Barnsley Birmingham City Bolton Brentford Brighton Bristol City Burnley Burton Albion Cardiff City Chelsea Crystal Palace Derby County Everton Fulham  Huddersfield Hull City Ipswich Town Leeds United Leicester Liverpool Manchester City Manchester United Middlesbrough Millwall Newcastle Norwich City Nottingham Forest Preston North End QPR Reading Sheffield United Sheffield Wednesday Southampton Stoke  Sunderland Swansea Tottenham Watford West Brom West Ham Wolves Woking or Peterborough MK Dons Newport County Wycombe Wanderers Port Vale/Yeovil Shrewsbury Town Doncaster Rovers Slough Town or Rochdale AFC Wimbledon Stevenage Mansfield Town Luton Town Bradford City Blackburn/Crewe AFC Fylde or Wigan Gillingham or Carlisle Notts County Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City Fleetwood Town or Hereford Coventry City

Liverpool v Everton the pick of FA Cup third round

Anfield will play host to a Merseyside derby in the third round of the FA Cup, with Arsenal starting their defence at Nottingham Forest.

FA Cup third-round draw in full: Liverpool v Everton and Brighton v Crystal Palace the stand-out ties

7:27PM FA Cup third-round draw in full Ipswich v Sheffield United Watford v Bristol City Birmingham v Burton Liverpool v Everton Brighton v Crystal Palace Aston Villa v Woking or Peterborough Bournemouth v AFC Fylde or Wigan Coventry v Stoke Newport v Leeds Bolton v Huddersfield Port Vale or Yeovil v Bradford Nottingham Forest v Arsenal Arsene Wenger's Arsenal travel to Nottingham Forest Brentford v Notts County QPR v MK Dons Manchester United v Derby Forest Green or Exeter v West Brom Doncaster v Slough Town or Rochdale Tottenham v AFC Wimbledon Middlesbrough v Sunderland Fleetwood or Hereford v Leicester Blackburn or Crewe v Hull Cardiff v Mansfield Manchester City v Burnley Shrewsbury v West Ham Wolves v Swansea Stevenage v Reading Newcastle v Luton Millwall v Barnsley Fulham v Southampton Wycombe v Preston Norwich v Chelsea Gillingham or Carlisle v Sheffield Wednesday 7:27PM One for the ages?  Another exciting looking tie is 2016 Premier League champions away at Hereford United (if Hereford can win their replay against Fleetwood Town.  7:23PM That concludes the draw No doubts about the tie of the round there...Liverpool will host Everton! There's also Brighton vs Crystal Palace and Bournemouth at home against non-league Fylde or Wigan.  7:22PM Last up Gillingham or Carlisle vs Sheffield Wednesday 7:21PM Tough draw Norwich Norwich City vs Chelsea 7:21PM Next Wycombe Wanderers vs Preston North End 7:21PM Next up Fulham vs Southampton 7:21PM All-Championship tie Millwall vs Barnsley 7:20PM Home banker?  Newcastle vs Luton Town 7:20PM Next up Stevenage vs Reading 7:20PM The home side could be the favourites here Wolves vs Swansea 7:20PM Another giant-killing for Shrewsbury?  Shrewsbury Town vs West Ham 7:20PM All Premier League tie Manchester City vs Burnley 7:19PM Next up Cardiff City vs Mansfield Town 7:19PM Upset alert Blackburn or Crewe vs Hull City 7:19PM Great draw Fleetwood Town or Hereford vs Leicester City 7:19PM Tees-Wear derby Middlesbrough vs Sunderland 7:18PM London derby Tottenham Hotspur vs AFC Wimbledon 7:18PM The Slough fans seem a bit upset... Doncaster Rovers vs Slough Town or Rochdale 7:18PM Banana skin?  Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City vs West Brom 7:17PM United are up against... Manchester United vs Derby County 7:17PM Next up QPR vs MK Dons 7:17PM Next up Brentford vs Notts County 7:16PM The holders will play... Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal 7:16PM Next Port Vale or Yeovil Town v Bradford City 7:16PM Local derby Bolton Wanderers vs Huddersfield Town 7:16PM Next up Newport County vs Leeds United 7:16PM A tale of two cities Coventry City vs Stoke City 7:15PM Potentially a huge trip for non-league Fylde Bournemouth vs AFC Fylde or Wigan 7:15PM Less exciting Aston Villa vs Woking or Peterborough United 7:15PM And another big rivalry! Brighton vs Crystal Palace 7:14PM Would you believe it?!  Liverpool vs Everton 7:14PM Next Birmingham City vs Burton Albion 7:14PM Next Watford vs Bristol City 7:14PM First up Ipswich Town vs Sheffield United 7:12PM Here we go Jake Humphrey is the host, and the venue is Slough Town's home ground Holloways Park ahead of Slough's FA Cup second round match tonight against Rochdale.  Glenn Hoddle and Jermaine Jenas will make the draw.  7:01PM Nearly there The draw will be getting under way in around about 10 minutes. Hereford v Newcastle? Wrexham v Arsenal? Sutton v Coventry? Yep, the BBC's montage has them all.  6:28PM An English institution Evening all, Welcome to our coverage of one of the great days in the English sporting calendar. Yes we are just minutes away from seeing which lower-league teams will get a chance to lose 3-0 against the second string of one of the Premier League's leading lights. For these part-time plumbers and postmen, the opportunity to test themselves against Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Darmian is just a draw of a ball away. There is also the opportunity to be patronised the hell out of by BBC commentators and possibly go down in football folklore for ever more. Think Ronny Radford scoring for Hereford against Newcastle, Mickey Thomas for Wrexham against Arsenal, er Nigel Jemson for Shrewsbury against Everton.  The third round stage is of course when all the Premier League and Championship teams join the competition, and alongside them will be four non-league teams in the pot - AFC Fylde, Hereford, Slough and Woking. Arsenal are the current FA Cup holders Credit: AP Woking you may recall have some pedigree in this competition. In January 1991 the Surrey-based side pulled off one of the great FA Cup shocks when as a Conference team they knocked out second-tier outfit West Brom 4-2 at the Hawthorns. They were then beaten 1-0 by top-flight side Everton in the fourth round.     More recently, Woking reached the third round in 1997 and took Premier League side Coventry to a replay which they narrowly lost 2-1. But enough about Woking. Tonight's draw gets under way at around 7pm, and precedes the second round match between seventh-tier Slough Town and League One side Rochdale.  Here are the ball numbers in full: Bournemouth Arsenal Aston Villa Barnsley Birmingham City Bolton Brentford Brighton Bristol City Burnley Burton Albion Cardiff City Chelsea Crystal Palace Derby County Everton Fulham  Huddersfield Hull City Ipswich Town Leeds United Leicester Liverpool Manchester City Manchester United Middlesbrough Millwall Newcastle Norwich City Nottingham Forest Preston North End QPR Reading Sheffield United Sheffield Wednesday Southampton Stoke  Sunderland Swansea Tottenham Watford West Brom West Ham Wolves Woking or Peterborough MK Dons Newport County Wycombe Wanderers Port Vale/Yeovil Shrewsbury Town Doncaster Rovers Slough Town or Rochdale AFC Wimbledon Stevenage Mansfield Town Luton Town Bradford City Blackburn/Crewe AFC Fylde or Wigan Gillingham or Carlisle Notts County Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City Fleetwood Town or Hereford Coventry City

FA Cup third-round draw in full: Liverpool v Everton and Brighton v Crystal Palace the stand-out ties

7:27PM FA Cup third-round draw in full Ipswich v Sheffield United Watford v Bristol City Birmingham v Burton Liverpool v Everton Brighton v Crystal Palace Aston Villa v Woking or Peterborough Bournemouth v AFC Fylde or Wigan Coventry v Stoke Newport v Leeds Bolton v Huddersfield Port Vale or Yeovil v Bradford Nottingham Forest v Arsenal Arsene Wenger's Arsenal travel to Nottingham Forest Brentford v Notts County QPR v MK Dons Manchester United v Derby Forest Green or Exeter v West Brom Doncaster v Slough Town or Rochdale Tottenham v AFC Wimbledon Middlesbrough v Sunderland Fleetwood or Hereford v Leicester Blackburn or Crewe v Hull Cardiff v Mansfield Manchester City v Burnley Shrewsbury v West Ham Wolves v Swansea Stevenage v Reading Newcastle v Luton Millwall v Barnsley Fulham v Southampton Wycombe v Preston Norwich v Chelsea Gillingham or Carlisle v Sheffield Wednesday 7:27PM One for the ages?  Another exciting looking tie is 2016 Premier League champions away at Hereford United (if Hereford can win their replay against Fleetwood Town.  7:23PM That concludes the draw No doubts about the tie of the round there...Liverpool will host Everton! There's also Brighton vs Crystal Palace and Bournemouth at home against non-league Fylde or Wigan.  7:22PM Last up Gillingham or Carlisle vs Sheffield Wednesday 7:21PM Tough draw Norwich Norwich City vs Chelsea 7:21PM Next Wycombe Wanderers vs Preston North End 7:21PM Next up Fulham vs Southampton 7:21PM All-Championship tie Millwall vs Barnsley 7:20PM Home banker?  Newcastle vs Luton Town 7:20PM Next up Stevenage vs Reading 7:20PM The home side could be the favourites here Wolves vs Swansea 7:20PM Another giant-killing for Shrewsbury?  Shrewsbury Town vs West Ham 7:20PM All Premier League tie Manchester City vs Burnley 7:19PM Next up Cardiff City vs Mansfield Town 7:19PM Upset alert Blackburn or Crewe vs Hull City 7:19PM Great draw Fleetwood Town or Hereford vs Leicester City 7:19PM Tees-Wear derby Middlesbrough vs Sunderland 7:18PM London derby Tottenham Hotspur vs AFC Wimbledon 7:18PM The Slough fans seem a bit upset... Doncaster Rovers vs Slough Town or Rochdale 7:18PM Banana skin?  Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City vs West Brom 7:17PM United are up against... Manchester United vs Derby County 7:17PM Next up QPR vs MK Dons 7:17PM Next up Brentford vs Notts County 7:16PM The holders will play... Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal 7:16PM Next Port Vale or Yeovil Town v Bradford City 7:16PM Local derby Bolton Wanderers vs Huddersfield Town 7:16PM Next up Newport County vs Leeds United 7:16PM A tale of two cities Coventry City vs Stoke City 7:15PM Potentially a huge trip for non-league Fylde Bournemouth vs AFC Fylde or Wigan 7:15PM Less exciting Aston Villa vs Woking or Peterborough United 7:15PM And another big rivalry! Brighton vs Crystal Palace 7:14PM Would you believe it?!  Liverpool vs Everton 7:14PM Next Birmingham City vs Burton Albion 7:14PM Next Watford vs Bristol City 7:14PM First up Ipswich Town vs Sheffield United 7:12PM Here we go Jake Humphrey is the host, and the venue is Slough Town's home ground Holloways Park ahead of Slough's FA Cup second round match tonight against Rochdale.  Glenn Hoddle and Jermaine Jenas will make the draw.  7:01PM Nearly there The draw will be getting under way in around about 10 minutes. Hereford v Newcastle? Wrexham v Arsenal? Sutton v Coventry? Yep, the BBC's montage has them all.  6:28PM An English institution Evening all, Welcome to our coverage of one of the great days in the English sporting calendar. Yes we are just minutes away from seeing which lower-league teams will get a chance to lose 3-0 against the second string of one of the Premier League's leading lights. For these part-time plumbers and postmen, the opportunity to test themselves against Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Darmian is just a draw of a ball away. There is also the opportunity to be patronised the hell out of by BBC commentators and possibly go down in football folklore for ever more. Think Ronny Radford scoring for Hereford against Newcastle, Mickey Thomas for Wrexham against Arsenal, er Nigel Jemson for Shrewsbury against Everton.  The third round stage is of course when all the Premier League and Championship teams join the competition, and alongside them will be four non-league teams in the pot - AFC Fylde, Hereford, Slough and Woking. Arsenal are the current FA Cup holders Credit: AP Woking you may recall have some pedigree in this competition. In January 1991 the Surrey-based side pulled off one of the great FA Cup shocks when as a Conference team they knocked out second-tier outfit West Brom 4-2 at the Hawthorns. They were then beaten 1-0 by top-flight side Everton in the fourth round.     More recently, Woking reached the third round in 1997 and took Premier League side Coventry to a replay which they narrowly lost 2-1. But enough about Woking. Tonight's draw gets under way at around 7pm, and precedes the second round match between seventh-tier Slough Town and League One side Rochdale.  Here are the ball numbers in full: Bournemouth Arsenal Aston Villa Barnsley Birmingham City Bolton Brentford Brighton Bristol City Burnley Burton Albion Cardiff City Chelsea Crystal Palace Derby County Everton Fulham  Huddersfield Hull City Ipswich Town Leeds United Leicester Liverpool Manchester City Manchester United Middlesbrough Millwall Newcastle Norwich City Nottingham Forest Preston North End QPR Reading Sheffield United Sheffield Wednesday Southampton Stoke  Sunderland Swansea Tottenham Watford West Brom West Ham Wolves Woking or Peterborough MK Dons Newport County Wycombe Wanderers Port Vale/Yeovil Shrewsbury Town Doncaster Rovers Slough Town or Rochdale AFC Wimbledon Stevenage Mansfield Town Luton Town Bradford City Blackburn/Crewe AFC Fylde or Wigan Gillingham or Carlisle Notts County Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City Fleetwood Town or Hereford Coventry City

FA Cup fixtures and dates: Liverpool vs Everton, Brighton vs Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal and more... the full draw

FA Cup fixtures and dates: Liverpool vs Everton, Brighton vs Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal and more... the full draw

FA Cup third-round draw: What time is it, how can you watch it and what ball number is your team?

What is it? The draw for the FA Cup third round, which is the stage at which the Premier League's sides join the competition. When is it? Monday 4 December at around 7pm - before Slough vs Rochdale kicks off (which is on BT Sport 1, by the way). How can I watch the draw? BT Sport 1 and BBC Two will be showing the draw live, but if you're unable to watch it on telly you can follow it with us on the Telegraph Sport website.  How does the draw work? 64 balls will be drawn at random to make up 32 ties. Anyone can play anyone so we could see Manchester United vs Arsenal and Manchester City vs Mansfield Town. What are the ball numbers? Bournemouth Arsenal Aston Villa Barnsley Birmingham City Bolton Brentford Brighton Bristol City Burnley Burton Albion Cardiff City Chelsea Crystal Palace Derby County Everton Fulham  Huddersfield Hull City Ipswich Town Leeds United Leicester Liverpool Manchester City Manchester United Middlesbrough Millwall Newcastle Norwich City Nottingham Forest Preston North End QPR Reading Sheffield United Sheffield Wednesday Southampton Stoke  Sunderland Swansea Tottenham Watford West Brom West Ham Wolves Woking or Peterborough MK Dons Newport County Wycombe Wanderers Port Vale/Yeovil Shrewsbury Town Doncaster Rovers Slough Town or Rochdale AFC Wimbledon Stevenage Mansfield Town Luton Town Bradford City Blackburn/Crewe AFC Fylde or Wigan Gillingham or Carlisle Notts County Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City Fleetwood Town or Hereford Coventry City Arsenal are chasing another FA Cup triumph Credit: AP When will the matches be played? The third round ties will be played over the weekend of 6 January 2018. This isn't confirmed, but we'd assume matches will be played Friday-Monday. What are the odds and who are favourites to win it? Man City - 4/1 Chelsea - 5/1 Man Utd - 6/1 Arsenal - 8/1 Tottenham - 8/1 Liverpool - 9/1 Everton - 18/1 Southampton - 25/1 Leicester - 33/1 West Ham - 33/1

FA Cup third-round draw: What time is it, how can you watch it and what ball number is your team?

What is it? The draw for the FA Cup third round, which is the stage at which the Premier League's sides join the competition. When is it? Monday 4 December at around 7pm - before Slough vs Rochdale kicks off (which is on BT Sport 1, by the way). How can I watch the draw? BT Sport 1 and BBC Two will be showing the draw live, but if you're unable to watch it on telly you can follow it with us on the Telegraph Sport website.  How does the draw work? 64 balls will be drawn at random to make up 32 ties. Anyone can play anyone so we could see Manchester United vs Arsenal and Manchester City vs Mansfield Town. What are the ball numbers? Bournemouth Arsenal Aston Villa Barnsley Birmingham City Bolton Brentford Brighton Bristol City Burnley Burton Albion Cardiff City Chelsea Crystal Palace Derby County Everton Fulham  Huddersfield Hull City Ipswich Town Leeds United Leicester Liverpool Manchester City Manchester United Middlesbrough Millwall Newcastle Norwich City Nottingham Forest Preston North End QPR Reading Sheffield United Sheffield Wednesday Southampton Stoke  Sunderland Swansea Tottenham Watford West Brom West Ham Wolves Woking or Peterborough MK Dons Newport County Wycombe Wanderers Port Vale/Yeovil Shrewsbury Town Doncaster Rovers Slough Town or Rochdale AFC Wimbledon Stevenage Mansfield Town Luton Town Bradford City Blackburn/Crewe AFC Fylde or Wigan Gillingham or Carlisle Notts County Forest Green Rovers or Exeter City Fleetwood Town or Hereford Coventry City Arsenal are chasing another FA Cup triumph Credit: AP When will the matches be played? The third round ties will be played over the weekend of 6 January 2018. This isn't confirmed, but we'd assume matches will be played Friday-Monday. What are the odds and who are favourites to win it? Man City - 4/1 Chelsea - 5/1 Man Utd - 6/1 Arsenal - 8/1 Tottenham - 8/1 Liverpool - 9/1 Everton - 18/1 Southampton - 25/1 Leicester - 33/1 West Ham - 33/1

Can Man City's XI be hailed as the best? Our writers pick the finest teams they have seen in the flesh

Pace, power, a refusal to yield: Manchester United 2007-08   Unlike Manchester City’s accelerated opening this year, it started slowly for Manchester United in 2007-08: they didn’t register a win until their fourth league game, an undistinguished beginning reflected in the top-flight form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who didn’t score until the end of September. But thereafter he couldn’t stop: he ended with 31 league goals in 31 starts. With the kind of perfect timing that long characterised their manager Alex Ferguson’s approach to the title race, they won every game in March, without conceding a goal. It was, however, in the Champions League that this United side demonstrated how good they were. They won five and drew one of their group stage matches. They beat Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages, before easing past Chelsea in the final thanks to John Terry’s butter-footed penalty miss. Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw. The moment the team-sheet was handed in, the opposition was beaten. From Edwin van der Sar in goal, through the back four of Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, a midfield of Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves and a front three of Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, this was a team that perfectly mixed youth with experience, that had pace, power and balance coupled with a ruthless refusal to yield. Plus, it had plenty in reserve. Carlos Tevez (who made 34 appearances in the league alone), Nani, Louis Saha, Anderson and Darren Fletcher formed quite a bench. Jim White Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw Credit: Getty Images History makers: Manchester United 1998-99 The best-ever team has to be marked against an obvious criteria: what did they win. And only one team, the United side of 1998-99 has won the Champions League, the Premier League and FA Cup. It was never done before and has not been accomplished since. They were up against a formidable Arsenal side, Double winners the season before, who they also beat in a remarkable FA Cup semi-final, and they won the most dramatic Champions League final ever, against Bayern Munich. United had the most incredible midfield in Beckham, Scholes, Roy Keane and Giggs – and it is hard to see any of those players being dislodged by anyone who has played for United since – and a roster of impressive strikers. It was also Peter Schmeichel’s last season in goal for United who still had Gary Neville and Denis Irwin at full-backs with Jaap Stam having arrived at the heart of the defence. Jason Burt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer holds aloft the Champions League trophy  Credit: Getty Images Dalglish’s darlings: Liverpool 1987-88 Kenny Dalglish lost Ian Rush to Juventus in the summer of 1987, but brought in John Aldridge, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ray Houghton. What followed was the most exciting Liverpool team there has been, not only breathtaking going forward but with the midfield authority of Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon. Then they had captain Alan Hansen striding upfield from centre-half, while Steve Nicol – the finest full back in Liverpool’s history – had a tendency to score a hat-trick in between unstoppable combinations with Barnes on the left wing. This side should have won the Double in consecutive years, inexplicably losing to Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup final before their last-minute title defeat to Arsenal in 1989. The 87-88 season saw just two league defeats, scoring 87 goals and conceding 24. Chris Bascombe Peter Beardsley was one of Liverpool's star players Credit: Getty Images Peak Ferguson: Manchester United 1993-94 They won what was then only the fifth Double in the history English football, having broken the club’s 26-year run without a league title the previous season. This was a vintage Alex Ferguson side, full of great players. Eric Cantona was at his best and there was an old guard including Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Schmeichel and, in his final season at the club, Bryan Robson. On the wings Ferguson had the choice of Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis. Keane had joined from Nottingham Forest in the summer. United went to the top of the table at the end of August and stayed there. At Maine Road in November they came from two goals behind to beat Manchester City 3-2 with Keane getting the late winner. Only Aston Villa in the League Cup final stopped United from a domestic Treble. United lost only six games in all competitions, four in the league and the first leg of a League Cup tie against Stoke, as well as the final.  Even their Champions League elimination, to Galatasaray, was on away goals. Ferguson’s first title-winning team had hit their peak. Sam Wallace Cantona kisses the FA Cup trophy in 1994 Credit: Getty Images Persistently thrilling: Manchester United 1998-99 There was much to admire about United’s 1993/94 side – “real tough b-----ds” as Ferguson used to call them. The Premier League and Champions League winners of 2007-08 were also formidable. But it  is impossible to look past the 1998-99 side, not least because of the scale of their achievement. No English side before or since has won the league, FA Cup and European Cup in a single season. It was, is and remains a truly remarkable feat. But, more than just the achievement itself, the manner in which footballing immortality was attained made it so much more and sparked feelings of awe and jealousy in rivals across the land. The team was built around a posse of academy graduates, something that resonates even more strongly today given how so many young English footballers are struggling to get a chance. The sheer force of personality and will in that team still takes the breath away, no better embodied than in the triumphant Champions League semi-final and final comebacks against Juventus and Bayern Munich respectively. And amid all the quality there was a kamikaze streak that made them such a persistently thrilling spectacle. They oozed greatness. James Ducker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck the winning goal in a dramatic finale Credit: Action Images “I would love it …”: Newcastle United 1995-96 A strange choice, perhaps, given they failed to win a single trophy that season but sometimes it is not just about silverware. Three years earlier, Newcastle had not even been in the top flight and were nothing more than a case study in how to turn a fanatical fan base against their club. Kevin Keegan changed that and unleashed a new power on the Premier League, playing a style of football that put entertainment above results. They were brilliant to watch and were desperately unlucky not to win the title that year. In the process  of creating a cosmopolitan, swash-buckling, attacking team, Keegan also completely altered perceptions of a northern industrial city that had fallen on hard times. Without the rebirth of its football team and the feelgood factor that spread, Newcastle would not be the confident, sparking jewel in the North it is today. Luke Edwards Keegan's Newcastle put entertaining above results Credit: Getty Images Day of the underdog: Leicester City 2016-17 The Arsenal Invincibles and Manchester United’s Treble-winners of the late 1990s boasted the best players of the Premier League era, but it would be churlish to ignore Leicester City as the greatest team. Not since the halcyon days of Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough have a team grabbed us by the shirt collar and shredded the established order to create such magic. Leicester, and Claudio Ranieri,  may well have capitalised on the underachievements of bigger clubs but this was a time when all the ingredients combined to carve out something special. Players such as Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan were arguably at their career best, there was the emergence of a midfield destroyer named N’Golo Kante, while bargain buys Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater flourished in a team emboldened by spirit and togetherness. Ranieri had just experienced a nightmare with the Greece national team, only to recover spectacularly and etch his name into history. Leicester lost only three league games all season. The more you think about it, now the established order has returned to normal, it seems even more remarkable. John Percy Leicester did the unthinkable by winning the Premier League as almighty underdogs Credit: AFP The jewel in the crown: Arsenal 1997/1998 Arsene Wenger has built three truly great sides during his Arsenal tenure but the first one was the best. The double-winning side of 1997/98 was built on the legacy of the George Graham years in the shape of the famous back four, while up front there was a devastating array of attacking options in Dennis Bergkamp, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars. The jewel in the crown, though, was the central midfield partnership of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, surely the best the Premier League has seen. As a new team they took time to gel but their form from the turn of the year - 15 wins from 16 Premier League games, with an FA Cup thrown in for good measure - was the best of any Wenger team. Vieira and Petit with the FA Cup Credit: Russell Cheyne It may seem odd to select an Arsenal side other than the Invincibles but this team was slightly stronger defensively and would simply bully teams into submission, including a genuinely great Manchester United side. Some - such as Gary Neville - felt Arsenal’s 2003/04 side could sometimes be bullied themselves, an accusation you could never level at the 97/98 team. With Thierry Henry up front the 2001/02 double-winners are also worthy of consideration. But the team of Vieira, Petit and Tony Adams just edges it. Julian Bennetts

Can Man City's XI be hailed as the best? Our writers pick the finest teams they have seen in the flesh

Pace, power, a refusal to yield: Manchester United 2007-08   Unlike Manchester City’s accelerated opening this year, it started slowly for Manchester United in 2007-08: they didn’t register a win until their fourth league game, an undistinguished beginning reflected in the top-flight form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who didn’t score until the end of September. But thereafter he couldn’t stop: he ended with 31 league goals in 31 starts. With the kind of perfect timing that long characterised their manager Alex Ferguson’s approach to the title race, they won every game in March, without conceding a goal. It was, however, in the Champions League that this United side demonstrated how good they were. They won five and drew one of their group stage matches. They beat Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages, before easing past Chelsea in the final thanks to John Terry’s butter-footed penalty miss. Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw. The moment the team-sheet was handed in, the opposition was beaten. From Edwin van der Sar in goal, through the back four of Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, a midfield of Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves and a front three of Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, this was a team that perfectly mixed youth with experience, that had pace, power and balance coupled with a ruthless refusal to yield. Plus, it had plenty in reserve. Carlos Tevez (who made 34 appearances in the league alone), Nani, Louis Saha, Anderson and Darren Fletcher formed quite a bench. Jim White Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw Credit: Getty Images History makers: Manchester United 1998-99 The best-ever team has to be marked against an obvious criteria: what did they win. And only one team, the United side of 1998-99 has won the Champions League, the Premier League and FA Cup. It was never done before and has not been accomplished since. They were up against a formidable Arsenal side, Double winners the season before, who they also beat in a remarkable FA Cup semi-final, and they won the most dramatic Champions League final ever, against Bayern Munich. United had the most incredible midfield in Beckham, Scholes, Roy Keane and Giggs – and it is hard to see any of those players being dislodged by anyone who has played for United since – and a roster of impressive strikers. It was also Peter Schmeichel’s last season in goal for United who still had Gary Neville and Denis Irwin at full-backs with Jaap Stam having arrived at the heart of the defence. Jason Burt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer holds aloft the Champions League trophy  Credit: Getty Images Dalglish’s darlings: Liverpool 1987-88 Kenny Dalglish lost Ian Rush to Juventus in the summer of 1987, but brought in John Aldridge, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ray Houghton. What followed was the most exciting Liverpool team there has been, not only breathtaking going forward but with the midfield authority of Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon. Then they had captain Alan Hansen striding upfield from centre-half, while Steve Nicol – the finest full back in Liverpool’s history – had a tendency to score a hat-trick in between unstoppable combinations with Barnes on the left wing. This side should have won the Double in consecutive years, inexplicably losing to Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup final before their last-minute title defeat to Arsenal in 1989. The 87-88 season saw just two league defeats, scoring 87 goals and conceding 24. Chris Bascombe Peter Beardsley was one of Liverpool's star players Credit: Getty Images Peak Ferguson: Manchester United 1993-94 They won what was then only the fifth Double in the history English football, having broken the club’s 26-year run without a league title the previous season. This was a vintage Alex Ferguson side, full of great players. Eric Cantona was at his best and there was an old guard including Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Schmeichel and, in his final season at the club, Bryan Robson. On the wings Ferguson had the choice of Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis. Keane had joined from Nottingham Forest in the summer. United went to the top of the table at the end of August and stayed there. At Maine Road in November they came from two goals behind to beat Manchester City 3-2 with Keane getting the late winner. Only Aston Villa in the League Cup final stopped United from a domestic Treble. United lost only six games in all competitions, four in the league and the first leg of a League Cup tie against Stoke, as well as the final.  Even their Champions League elimination, to Galatasaray, was on away goals. Ferguson’s first title-winning team had hit their peak. Sam Wallace Cantona kisses the FA Cup trophy in 1994 Credit: Getty Images Persistently thrilling: Manchester United 1998-99 There was much to admire about United’s 1993/94 side – “real tough b-----ds” as Ferguson used to call them. The Premier League and Champions League winners of 2007-08 were also formidable. But it  is impossible to look past the 1998-99 side, not least because of the scale of their achievement. No English side before or since has won the league, FA Cup and European Cup in a single season. It was, is and remains a truly remarkable feat. But, more than just the achievement itself, the manner in which footballing immortality was attained made it so much more and sparked feelings of awe and jealousy in rivals across the land. The team was built around a posse of academy graduates, something that resonates even more strongly today given how so many young English footballers are struggling to get a chance. The sheer force of personality and will in that team still takes the breath away, no better embodied than in the triumphant Champions League semi-final and final comebacks against Juventus and Bayern Munich respectively. And amid all the quality there was a kamikaze streak that made them such a persistently thrilling spectacle. They oozed greatness. James Ducker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck the winning goal in a dramatic finale Credit: Action Images “I would love it …”: Newcastle United 1995-96 A strange choice, perhaps, given they failed to win a single trophy that season but sometimes it is not just about silverware. Three years earlier, Newcastle had not even been in the top flight and were nothing more than a case study in how to turn a fanatical fan base against their club. Kevin Keegan changed that and unleashed a new power on the Premier League, playing a style of football that put entertainment above results. They were brilliant to watch and were desperately unlucky not to win the title that year. In the process  of creating a cosmopolitan, swash-buckling, attacking team, Keegan also completely altered perceptions of a northern industrial city that had fallen on hard times. Without the rebirth of its football team and the feelgood factor that spread, Newcastle would not be the confident, sparking jewel in the North it is today. Luke Edwards Keegan's Newcastle put entertaining above results Credit: Getty Images Day of the underdog: Leicester City 2016-17 The Arsenal Invincibles and Manchester United’s Treble-winners of the late 1990s boasted the best players of the Premier League era, but it would be churlish to ignore Leicester City as the greatest team. Not since the halcyon days of Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough have a team grabbed us by the shirt collar and shredded the established order to create such magic. Leicester, and Claudio Ranieri,  may well have capitalised on the underachievements of bigger clubs but this was a time when all the ingredients combined to carve out something special. Players such as Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan were arguably at their career best, there was the emergence of a midfield destroyer named N’Golo Kante, while bargain buys Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater flourished in a team emboldened by spirit and togetherness. Ranieri had just experienced a nightmare with the Greece national team, only to recover spectacularly and etch his name into history. Leicester lost only three league games all season. The more you think about it, now the established order has returned to normal, it seems even more remarkable. John Percy Leicester did the unthinkable by winning the Premier League as almighty underdogs Credit: AFP The jewel in the crown: Arsenal 1997/1998 Arsene Wenger has built three truly great sides during his Arsenal tenure but the first one was the best. The double-winning side of 1997/98 was built on the legacy of the George Graham years in the shape of the famous back four, while up front there was a devastating array of attacking options in Dennis Bergkamp, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars. The jewel in the crown, though, was the central midfield partnership of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, surely the best the Premier League has seen. As a new team they took time to gel but their form from the turn of the year - 15 wins from 16 Premier League games, with an FA Cup thrown in for good measure - was the best of any Wenger team. Vieira and Petit with the FA Cup Credit: Russell Cheyne It may seem odd to select an Arsenal side other than the Invincibles but this team was slightly stronger defensively and would simply bully teams into submission, including a genuinely great Manchester United side. Some - such as Gary Neville - felt Arsenal’s 2003/04 side could sometimes be bullied themselves, an accusation you could never level at the 97/98 team. With Thierry Henry up front the 2001/02 double-winners are also worthy of consideration. But the team of Vieira, Petit and Tony Adams just edges it. Julian Bennetts

Can Man City's XI be hailed as the best? Our writers pick the finest teams they have seen in the flesh

Pace, power, a refusal to yield: Manchester United 2007-08   Unlike Manchester City’s accelerated opening this year, it started slowly for Manchester United in 2007-08: they didn’t register a win until their fourth league game, an undistinguished beginning reflected in the top-flight form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who didn’t score until the end of September. But thereafter he couldn’t stop: he ended with 31 league goals in 31 starts. With the kind of perfect timing that long characterised their manager Alex Ferguson’s approach to the title race, they won every game in March, without conceding a goal. It was, however, in the Champions League that this United side demonstrated how good they were. They won five and drew one of their group stage matches. They beat Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages, before easing past Chelsea in the final thanks to John Terry’s butter-footed penalty miss. Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw. The moment the team-sheet was handed in, the opposition was beaten. From Edwin van der Sar in goal, through the back four of Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, a midfield of Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves and a front three of Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, this was a team that perfectly mixed youth with experience, that had pace, power and balance coupled with a ruthless refusal to yield. Plus, it had plenty in reserve. Carlos Tevez (who made 34 appearances in the league alone), Nani, Louis Saha, Anderson and Darren Fletcher formed quite a bench. Jim White Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw Credit: Getty Images History makers: Manchester United 1998-99 The best-ever team has to be marked against an obvious criteria: what did they win. And only one team, the United side of 1998-99 has won the Champions League, the Premier League and FA Cup. It was never done before and has not been accomplished since. They were up against a formidable Arsenal side, Double winners the season before, who they also beat in a remarkable FA Cup semi-final, and they won the most dramatic Champions League final ever, against Bayern Munich. United had the most incredible midfield in Beckham, Scholes, Roy Keane and Giggs – and it is hard to see any of those players being dislodged by anyone who has played for United since – and a roster of impressive strikers. It was also Peter Schmeichel’s last season in goal for United who still had Gary Neville and Denis Irwin at full-backs with Jaap Stam having arrived at the heart of the defence. Jason Burt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer holds aloft the Champions League trophy  Credit: Getty Images Dalglish’s darlings: Liverpool 1987-88 Kenny Dalglish lost Ian Rush to Juventus in the summer of 1987, but brought in John Aldridge, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ray Houghton. What followed was the most exciting Liverpool team there has been, not only breathtaking going forward but with the midfield authority of Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon. Then they had captain Alan Hansen striding upfield from centre-half, while Steve Nicol – the finest full back in Liverpool’s history – had a tendency to score a hat-trick in between unstoppable combinations with Barnes on the left wing. This side should have won the Double in consecutive years, inexplicably losing to Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup final before their last-minute title defeat to Arsenal in 1989. The 87-88 season saw just two league defeats, scoring 87 goals and conceding 24. Chris Bascombe Peter Beardsley was one of Liverpool's star players Credit: Getty Images Peak Ferguson: Manchester United 1993-94 They won what was then only the fifth Double in the history English football, having broken the club’s 26-year run without a league title the previous season. This was a vintage Alex Ferguson side, full of great players. Eric Cantona was at his best and there was an old guard including Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Schmeichel and, in his final season at the club, Bryan Robson. On the wings Ferguson had the choice of Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis. Keane had joined from Nottingham Forest in the summer. United went to the top of the table at the end of August and stayed there. At Maine Road in November they came from two goals behind to beat Manchester City 3-2 with Keane getting the late winner. Only Aston Villa in the League Cup final stopped United from a domestic Treble. United lost only six games in all competitions, four in the league and the first leg of a League Cup tie against Stoke, as well as the final.  Even their Champions League elimination, to Galatasaray, was on away goals. Ferguson’s first title-winning team had hit their peak. Sam Wallace Cantona kisses the FA Cup trophy in 1994 Credit: Getty Images Persistently thrilling: Manchester United 1998-99 There was much to admire about United’s 1993/94 side – “real tough b-----ds” as Ferguson used to call them. The Premier League and Champions League winners of 2007-08 were also formidable. But it  is impossible to look past the 1998-99 side, not least because of the scale of their achievement. No English side before or since has won the league, FA Cup and European Cup in a single season. It was, is and remains a truly remarkable feat. But, more than just the achievement itself, the manner in which footballing immortality was attained made it so much more and sparked feelings of awe and jealousy in rivals across the land. The team was built around a posse of academy graduates, something that resonates even more strongly today given how so many young English footballers are struggling to get a chance. The sheer force of personality and will in that team still takes the breath away, no better embodied than in the triumphant Champions League semi-final and final comebacks against Juventus and Bayern Munich respectively. And amid all the quality there was a kamikaze streak that made them such a persistently thrilling spectacle. They oozed greatness. James Ducker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck the winning goal in a dramatic finale Credit: Action Images “I would love it …”: Newcastle United 1995-96 A strange choice, perhaps, given they failed to win a single trophy that season but sometimes it is not just about silverware. Three years earlier, Newcastle had not even been in the top flight and were nothing more than a case study in how to turn a fanatical fan base against their club. Kevin Keegan changed that and unleashed a new power on the Premier League, playing a style of football that put entertainment above results. They were brilliant to watch and were desperately unlucky not to win the title that year. In the process  of creating a cosmopolitan, swash-buckling, attacking team, Keegan also completely altered perceptions of a northern industrial city that had fallen on hard times. Without the rebirth of its football team and the feelgood factor that spread, Newcastle would not be the confident, sparking jewel in the North it is today. Luke Edwards Keegan's Newcastle put entertaining above results Credit: Getty Images Day of the underdog: Leicester City 2016-17 The Arsenal Invincibles and Manchester United’s Treble-winners of the late 1990s boasted the best players of the Premier League era, but it would be churlish to ignore Leicester City as the greatest team. Not since the halcyon days of Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough have a team grabbed us by the shirt collar and shredded the established order to create such magic. Leicester, and Claudio Ranieri,  may well have capitalised on the underachievements of bigger clubs but this was a time when all the ingredients combined to carve out something special. Players such as Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan were arguably at their career best, there was the emergence of a midfield destroyer named N’Golo Kante, while bargain buys Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater flourished in a team emboldened by spirit and togetherness. Ranieri had just experienced a nightmare with the Greece national team, only to recover spectacularly and etch his name into history. Leicester lost only three league games all season. The more you think about it, now the established order has returned to normal, it seems even more remarkable. John Percy Leicester did the unthinkable by winning the Premier League as almighty underdogs Credit: AFP The jewel in the crown: Arsenal 1997/1998 Arsene Wenger has built three truly great sides during his Arsenal tenure but the first one was the best. The double-winning side of 1997/98 was built on the legacy of the George Graham years in the shape of the famous back four, while up front there was a devastating array of attacking options in Dennis Bergkamp, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars. The jewel in the crown, though, was the central midfield partnership of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, surely the best the Premier League has seen. As a new team they took time to gel but their form from the turn of the year - 15 wins from 16 Premier League games, with an FA Cup thrown in for good measure - was the best of any Wenger team. Vieira and Petit with the FA Cup Credit: Russell Cheyne It may seem odd to select an Arsenal side other than the Invincibles but this team was slightly stronger defensively and would simply bully teams into submission, including a genuinely great Manchester United side. Some - such as Gary Neville - felt Arsenal’s 2003/04 side could sometimes be bullied themselves, an accusation you could never level at the 97/98 team. With Thierry Henry up front the 2001/02 double-winners are also worthy of consideration. But the team of Vieira, Petit and Tony Adams just edges it. Julian Bennetts

Can Man City's XI be hailed as the best? Our writers pick the finest teams they have seen in the flesh

Pace, power, a refusal to yield: Manchester United 2007-08   Unlike Manchester City’s accelerated opening this year, it started slowly for Manchester United in 2007-08: they didn’t register a win until their fourth league game, an undistinguished beginning reflected in the top-flight form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who didn’t score until the end of September. But thereafter he couldn’t stop: he ended with 31 league goals in 31 starts. With the kind of perfect timing that long characterised their manager Alex Ferguson’s approach to the title race, they won every game in March, without conceding a goal. It was, however, in the Champions League that this United side demonstrated how good they were. They won five and drew one of their group stage matches. They beat Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages, before easing past Chelsea in the final thanks to John Terry’s butter-footed penalty miss. Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw. The moment the team-sheet was handed in, the opposition was beaten. From Edwin van der Sar in goal, through the back four of Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, a midfield of Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves and a front three of Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, this was a team that perfectly mixed youth with experience, that had pace, power and balance coupled with a ruthless refusal to yield. Plus, it had plenty in reserve. Carlos Tevez (who made 34 appearances in the league alone), Nani, Louis Saha, Anderson and Darren Fletcher formed quite a bench. Jim White Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw Credit: Getty Images History makers: Manchester United 1998-99 The best-ever team has to be marked against an obvious criteria: what did they win. And only one team, the United side of 1998-99 has won the Champions League, the Premier League and FA Cup. It was never done before and has not been accomplished since. They were up against a formidable Arsenal side, Double winners the season before, who they also beat in a remarkable FA Cup semi-final, and they won the most dramatic Champions League final ever, against Bayern Munich. United had the most incredible midfield in Beckham, Scholes, Roy Keane and Giggs – and it is hard to see any of those players being dislodged by anyone who has played for United since – and a roster of impressive strikers. It was also Peter Schmeichel’s last season in goal for United who still had Gary Neville and Denis Irwin at full-backs with Jaap Stam having arrived at the heart of the defence. Jason Burt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer holds aloft the Champions League trophy  Credit: Getty Images Dalglish’s darlings: Liverpool 1987-88 Kenny Dalglish lost Ian Rush to Juventus in the summer of 1987, but brought in John Aldridge, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ray Houghton. What followed was the most exciting Liverpool team there has been, not only breathtaking going forward but with the midfield authority of Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon. Then they had captain Alan Hansen striding upfield from centre-half, while Steve Nicol – the finest full back in Liverpool’s history – had a tendency to score a hat-trick in between unstoppable combinations with Barnes on the left wing. This side should have won the Double in consecutive years, inexplicably losing to Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup final before their last-minute title defeat to Arsenal in 1989. The 87-88 season saw just two league defeats, scoring 87 goals and conceding 24. Chris Bascombe Peter Beardsley was one of Liverpool's star players Credit: Getty Images Peak Ferguson: Manchester United 1993-94 They won what was then only the fifth Double in the history English football, having broken the club’s 26-year run without a league title the previous season. This was a vintage Alex Ferguson side, full of great players. Eric Cantona was at his best and there was an old guard including Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Schmeichel and, in his final season at the club, Bryan Robson. On the wings Ferguson had the choice of Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis. Keane had joined from Nottingham Forest in the summer. United went to the top of the table at the end of August and stayed there. At Maine Road in November they came from two goals behind to beat Manchester City 3-2 with Keane getting the late winner. Only Aston Villa in the League Cup final stopped United from a domestic Treble. United lost only six games in all competitions, four in the league and the first leg of a League Cup tie against Stoke, as well as the final.  Even their Champions League elimination, to Galatasaray, was on away goals. Ferguson’s first title-winning team had hit their peak. Sam Wallace Cantona kisses the FA Cup trophy in 1994 Credit: Getty Images Persistently thrilling: Manchester United 1998-99 There was much to admire about United’s 1993/94 side – “real tough b-----ds” as Ferguson used to call them. The Premier League and Champions League winners of 2007-08 were also formidable. But it  is impossible to look past the 1998-99 side, not least because of the scale of their achievement. No English side before or since has won the league, FA Cup and European Cup in a single season. It was, is and remains a truly remarkable feat. But, more than just the achievement itself, the manner in which footballing immortality was attained made it so much more and sparked feelings of awe and jealousy in rivals across the land. The team was built around a posse of academy graduates, something that resonates even more strongly today given how so many young English footballers are struggling to get a chance. The sheer force of personality and will in that team still takes the breath away, no better embodied than in the triumphant Champions League semi-final and final comebacks against Juventus and Bayern Munich respectively. And amid all the quality there was a kamikaze streak that made them such a persistently thrilling spectacle. They oozed greatness. James Ducker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck the winning goal in a dramatic finale Credit: Action Images “I would love it …”: Newcastle United 1995-96 A strange choice, perhaps, given they failed to win a single trophy that season but sometimes it is not just about silverware. Three years earlier, Newcastle had not even been in the top flight and were nothing more than a case study in how to turn a fanatical fan base against their club. Kevin Keegan changed that and unleashed a new power on the Premier League, playing a style of football that put entertainment above results. They were brilliant to watch and were desperately unlucky not to win the title that year. In the process  of creating a cosmopolitan, swash-buckling, attacking team, Keegan also completely altered perceptions of a northern industrial city that had fallen on hard times. Without the rebirth of its football team and the feelgood factor that spread, Newcastle would not be the confident, sparking jewel in the North it is today. Luke Edwards Keegan's Newcastle put entertaining above results Credit: Getty Images Day of the underdog: Leicester City 2016-17 The Arsenal Invincibles and Manchester United’s Treble-winners of the late 1990s boasted the best players of the Premier League era, but it would be churlish to ignore Leicester City as the greatest team. Not since the halcyon days of Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough have a team grabbed us by the shirt collar and shredded the established order to create such magic. Leicester, and Claudio Ranieri,  may well have capitalised on the underachievements of bigger clubs but this was a time when all the ingredients combined to carve out something special. Players such as Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan were arguably at their career best, there was the emergence of a midfield destroyer named N’Golo Kante, while bargain buys Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater flourished in a team emboldened by spirit and togetherness. Ranieri had just experienced a nightmare with the Greece national team, only to recover spectacularly and etch his name into history. Leicester lost only three league games all season. The more you think about it, now the established order has returned to normal, it seems even more remarkable. John Percy Leicester did the unthinkable by winning the Premier League as almighty underdogs Credit: AFP The jewel in the crown: Arsenal 1997/1998 Arsene Wenger has built three truly great sides during his Arsenal tenure but the first one was the best. The double-winning side of 1997/98 was built on the legacy of the George Graham years in the shape of the famous back four, while up front there was a devastating array of attacking options in Dennis Bergkamp, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars. The jewel in the crown, though, was the central midfield partnership of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, surely the best the Premier League has seen. As a new team they took time to gel but their form from the turn of the year - 15 wins from 16 Premier League games, with an FA Cup thrown in for good measure - was the best of any Wenger team. Vieira and Petit with the FA Cup Credit: Russell Cheyne It may seem odd to select an Arsenal side other than the Invincibles but this team was slightly stronger defensively and would simply bully teams into submission, including a genuinely great Manchester United side. Some - such as Gary Neville - felt Arsenal’s 2003/04 side could sometimes be bullied themselves, an accusation you could never level at the 97/98 team. With Thierry Henry up front the 2001/02 double-winners are also worthy of consideration. But the team of Vieira, Petit and Tony Adams just edges it. Julian Bennetts

Can Man City's XI be hailed as the best? Our writers pick the finest teams they have seen in the flesh

Pace, power, a refusal to yield: Manchester United 2007-08   Unlike Manchester City’s accelerated opening this year, it started slowly for Manchester United in 2007-08: they didn’t register a win until their fourth league game, an undistinguished beginning reflected in the top-flight form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who didn’t score until the end of September. But thereafter he couldn’t stop: he ended with 31 league goals in 31 starts. With the kind of perfect timing that long characterised their manager Alex Ferguson’s approach to the title race, they won every game in March, without conceding a goal. It was, however, in the Champions League that this United side demonstrated how good they were. They won five and drew one of their group stage matches. They beat Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages, before easing past Chelsea in the final thanks to John Terry’s butter-footed penalty miss. Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw. The moment the team-sheet was handed in, the opposition was beaten. From Edwin van der Sar in goal, through the back four of Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, a midfield of Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves and a front three of Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, this was a team that perfectly mixed youth with experience, that had pace, power and balance coupled with a ruthless refusal to yield. Plus, it had plenty in reserve. Carlos Tevez (who made 34 appearances in the league alone), Nani, Louis Saha, Anderson and Darren Fletcher formed quite a bench. Jim White Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw Credit: Getty Images History makers: Manchester United 1998-99 The best-ever team has to be marked against an obvious criteria: what did they win. And only one team, the United side of 1998-99 has won the Champions League, the Premier League and FA Cup. It was never done before and has not been accomplished since. They were up against a formidable Arsenal side, Double winners the season before, who they also beat in a remarkable FA Cup semi-final, and they won the most dramatic Champions League final ever, against Bayern Munich. United had the most incredible midfield in Beckham, Scholes, Roy Keane and Giggs – and it is hard to see any of those players being dislodged by anyone who has played for United since – and a roster of impressive strikers. It was also Peter Schmeichel’s last season in goal for United who still had Gary Neville and Denis Irwin at full-backs with Jaap Stam having arrived at the heart of the defence. Jason Burt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer holds aloft the Champions League trophy  Credit: Getty Images Dalglish’s darlings: Liverpool 1987-88 Kenny Dalglish lost Ian Rush to Juventus in the summer of 1987, but brought in John Aldridge, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ray Houghton. What followed was the most exciting Liverpool team there has been, not only breathtaking going forward but with the midfield authority of Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon. Then they had captain Alan Hansen striding upfield from centre-half, while Steve Nicol – the finest full back in Liverpool’s history – had a tendency to score a hat-trick in between unstoppable combinations with Barnes on the left wing. This side should have won the Double in consecutive years, inexplicably losing to Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup final before their last-minute title defeat to Arsenal in 1989. The 87-88 season saw just two league defeats, scoring 87 goals and conceding 24. Chris Bascombe Peter Beardsley was one of Liverpool's star players Credit: Getty Images Peak Ferguson: Manchester United 1993-94 They won what was then only the fifth Double in the history English football, having broken the club’s 26-year run without a league title the previous season. This was a vintage Alex Ferguson side, full of great players. Eric Cantona was at his best and there was an old guard including Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Schmeichel and, in his final season at the club, Bryan Robson. On the wings Ferguson had the choice of Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis. Keane had joined from Nottingham Forest in the summer. United went to the top of the table at the end of August and stayed there. At Maine Road in November they came from two goals behind to beat Manchester City 3-2 with Keane getting the late winner. Only Aston Villa in the League Cup final stopped United from a domestic Treble. United lost only six games in all competitions, four in the league and the first leg of a League Cup tie against Stoke, as well as the final.  Even their Champions League elimination, to Galatasaray, was on away goals. Ferguson’s first title-winning team had hit their peak. Sam Wallace Cantona kisses the FA Cup trophy in 1994 Credit: Getty Images Persistently thrilling: Manchester United 1998-99 There was much to admire about United’s 1993/94 side – “real tough b-----ds” as Ferguson used to call them. The Premier League and Champions League winners of 2007-08 were also formidable. But it  is impossible to look past the 1998-99 side, not least because of the scale of their achievement. No English side before or since has won the league, FA Cup and European Cup in a single season. It was, is and remains a truly remarkable feat. But, more than just the achievement itself, the manner in which footballing immortality was attained made it so much more and sparked feelings of awe and jealousy in rivals across the land. The team was built around a posse of academy graduates, something that resonates even more strongly today given how so many young English footballers are struggling to get a chance. The sheer force of personality and will in that team still takes the breath away, no better embodied than in the triumphant Champions League semi-final and final comebacks against Juventus and Bayern Munich respectively. And amid all the quality there was a kamikaze streak that made them such a persistently thrilling spectacle. They oozed greatness. James Ducker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck the winning goal in a dramatic finale Credit: Action Images “I would love it …”: Newcastle United 1995-96 A strange choice, perhaps, given they failed to win a single trophy that season but sometimes it is not just about silverware. Three years earlier, Newcastle had not even been in the top flight and were nothing more than a case study in how to turn a fanatical fan base against their club. Kevin Keegan changed that and unleashed a new power on the Premier League, playing a style of football that put entertainment above results. They were brilliant to watch and were desperately unlucky not to win the title that year. In the process  of creating a cosmopolitan, swash-buckling, attacking team, Keegan also completely altered perceptions of a northern industrial city that had fallen on hard times. Without the rebirth of its football team and the feelgood factor that spread, Newcastle would not be the confident, sparking jewel in the North it is today. Luke Edwards Keegan's Newcastle put entertaining above results Credit: Getty Images Day of the underdog: Leicester City 2016-17 The Arsenal Invincibles and Manchester United’s Treble-winners of the late 1990s boasted the best players of the Premier League era, but it would be churlish to ignore Leicester City as the greatest team. Not since the halcyon days of Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough have a team grabbed us by the shirt collar and shredded the established order to create such magic. Leicester, and Claudio Ranieri,  may well have capitalised on the underachievements of bigger clubs but this was a time when all the ingredients combined to carve out something special. Players such as Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan were arguably at their career best, there was the emergence of a midfield destroyer named N’Golo Kante, while bargain buys Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater flourished in a team emboldened by spirit and togetherness. Ranieri had just experienced a nightmare with the Greece national team, only to recover spectacularly and etch his name into history. Leicester lost only three league games all season. The more you think about it, now the established order has returned to normal, it seems even more remarkable. John Percy Leicester did the unthinkable by winning the Premier League as almighty underdogs Credit: AFP The jewel in the crown: Arsenal 1997/1998 Arsene Wenger has built three truly great sides during his Arsenal tenure but the first one was the best. The double-winning side of 1997/98 was built on the legacy of the George Graham years in the shape of the famous back four, while up front there was a devastating array of attacking options in Dennis Bergkamp, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars. The jewel in the crown, though, was the central midfield partnership of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, surely the best the Premier League has seen. As a new team they took time to gel but their form from the turn of the year - 15 wins from 16 Premier League games, with an FA Cup thrown in for good measure - was the best of any Wenger team. Vieira and Petit with the FA Cup Credit: Russell Cheyne It may seem odd to select an Arsenal side other than the Invincibles but this team was slightly stronger defensively and would simply bully teams into submission, including a genuinely great Manchester United side. Some - such as Gary Neville - felt Arsenal’s 2003/04 side could sometimes be bullied themselves, an accusation you could never level at the 97/98 team. With Thierry Henry up front the 2001/02 double-winners are also worthy of consideration. But the team of Vieira, Petit and Tony Adams just edges it. Julian Bennetts

Can Man City's XI be hailed as the best? Our writers pick the finest teams they have seen in the flesh

Pace, power, a refusal to yield: Manchester United 2007-08   Unlike Manchester City’s accelerated opening this year, it started slowly for Manchester United in 2007-08: they didn’t register a win until their fourth league game, an undistinguished beginning reflected in the top-flight form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who didn’t score until the end of September. But thereafter he couldn’t stop: he ended with 31 league goals in 31 starts. With the kind of perfect timing that long characterised their manager Alex Ferguson’s approach to the title race, they won every game in March, without conceding a goal. It was, however, in the Champions League that this United side demonstrated how good they were. They won five and drew one of their group stage matches. They beat Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages, before easing past Chelsea in the final thanks to John Terry’s butter-footed penalty miss. Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw. The moment the team-sheet was handed in, the opposition was beaten. From Edwin van der Sar in goal, through the back four of Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, a midfield of Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves and a front three of Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, this was a team that perfectly mixed youth with experience, that had pace, power and balance coupled with a ruthless refusal to yield. Plus, it had plenty in reserve. Carlos Tevez (who made 34 appearances in the league alone), Nani, Louis Saha, Anderson and Darren Fletcher formed quite a bench. Jim White Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw Credit: Getty Images History makers: Manchester United 1998-99 The best-ever team has to be marked against an obvious criteria: what did they win. And only one team, the United side of 1998-99 has won the Champions League, the Premier League and FA Cup. It was never done before and has not been accomplished since. They were up against a formidable Arsenal side, Double winners the season before, who they also beat in a remarkable FA Cup semi-final, and they won the most dramatic Champions League final ever, against Bayern Munich. United had the most incredible midfield in Beckham, Scholes, Roy Keane and Giggs – and it is hard to see any of those players being dislodged by anyone who has played for United since – and a roster of impressive strikers. It was also Peter Schmeichel’s last season in goal for United who still had Gary Neville and Denis Irwin at full-backs with Jaap Stam having arrived at the heart of the defence. Jason Burt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer holds aloft the Champions League trophy  Credit: Getty Images Dalglish’s darlings: Liverpool 1987-88 Kenny Dalglish lost Ian Rush to Juventus in the summer of 1987, but brought in John Aldridge, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ray Houghton. What followed was the most exciting Liverpool team there has been, not only breathtaking going forward but with the midfield authority of Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon. Then they had captain Alan Hansen striding upfield from centre-half, while Steve Nicol – the finest full back in Liverpool’s history – had a tendency to score a hat-trick in between unstoppable combinations with Barnes on the left wing. This side should have won the Double in consecutive years, inexplicably losing to Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup final before their last-minute title defeat to Arsenal in 1989. The 87-88 season saw just two league defeats, scoring 87 goals and conceding 24. Chris Bascombe Peter Beardsley was one of Liverpool's star players Credit: Getty Images Peak Ferguson: Manchester United 1993-94 They won what was then only the fifth Double in the history English football, having broken the club’s 26-year run without a league title the previous season. This was a vintage Alex Ferguson side, full of great players. Eric Cantona was at his best and there was an old guard including Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Schmeichel and, in his final season at the club, Bryan Robson. On the wings Ferguson had the choice of Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis. Keane had joined from Nottingham Forest in the summer. United went to the top of the table at the end of August and stayed there. At Maine Road in November they came from two goals behind to beat Manchester City 3-2 with Keane getting the late winner. Only Aston Villa in the League Cup final stopped United from a domestic Treble. United lost only six games in all competitions, four in the league and the first leg of a League Cup tie against Stoke, as well as the final.  Even their Champions League elimination, to Galatasaray, was on away goals. Ferguson’s first title-winning team had hit their peak. Sam Wallace Cantona kisses the FA Cup trophy in 1994 Credit: Getty Images Persistently thrilling: Manchester United 1998-99 There was much to admire about United’s 1993/94 side – “real tough b-----ds” as Ferguson used to call them. The Premier League and Champions League winners of 2007-08 were also formidable. But it  is impossible to look past the 1998-99 side, not least because of the scale of their achievement. No English side before or since has won the league, FA Cup and European Cup in a single season. It was, is and remains a truly remarkable feat. But, more than just the achievement itself, the manner in which footballing immortality was attained made it so much more and sparked feelings of awe and jealousy in rivals across the land. The team was built around a posse of academy graduates, something that resonates even more strongly today given how so many young English footballers are struggling to get a chance. The sheer force of personality and will in that team still takes the breath away, no better embodied than in the triumphant Champions League semi-final and final comebacks against Juventus and Bayern Munich respectively. And amid all the quality there was a kamikaze streak that made them such a persistently thrilling spectacle. They oozed greatness. James Ducker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck the winning goal in a dramatic finale Credit: Action Images “I would love it …”: Newcastle United 1995-96 A strange choice, perhaps, given they failed to win a single trophy that season but sometimes it is not just about silverware. Three years earlier, Newcastle had not even been in the top flight and were nothing more than a case study in how to turn a fanatical fan base against their club. Kevin Keegan changed that and unleashed a new power on the Premier League, playing a style of football that put entertainment above results. They were brilliant to watch and were desperately unlucky not to win the title that year. In the process  of creating a cosmopolitan, swash-buckling, attacking team, Keegan also completely altered perceptions of a northern industrial city that had fallen on hard times. Without the rebirth of its football team and the feelgood factor that spread, Newcastle would not be the confident, sparking jewel in the North it is today. Luke Edwards Keegan's Newcastle put entertaining above results Credit: Getty Images Day of the underdog: Leicester City 2016-17 The Arsenal Invincibles and Manchester United’s Treble-winners of the late 1990s boasted the best players of the Premier League era, but it would be churlish to ignore Leicester City as the greatest team. Not since the halcyon days of Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough have a team grabbed us by the shirt collar and shredded the established order to create such magic. Leicester, and Claudio Ranieri,  may well have capitalised on the underachievements of bigger clubs but this was a time when all the ingredients combined to carve out something special. Players such as Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan were arguably at their career best, there was the emergence of a midfield destroyer named N’Golo Kante, while bargain buys Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater flourished in a team emboldened by spirit and togetherness. Ranieri had just experienced a nightmare with the Greece national team, only to recover spectacularly and etch his name into history. Leicester lost only three league games all season. The more you think about it, now the established order has returned to normal, it seems even more remarkable. John Percy Leicester did the unthinkable by winning the Premier League as almighty underdogs Credit: AFP The jewel in the crown: Arsenal 1997/1998 Arsene Wenger has built three truly great sides during his Arsenal tenure but the first one was the best. The double-winning side of 1997/98 was built on the legacy of the George Graham years in the shape of the famous back four, while up front there was a devastating array of attacking options in Dennis Bergkamp, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars. The jewel in the crown, though, was the central midfield partnership of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, surely the best the Premier League has seen. As a new team they took time to gel but their form from the turn of the year - 15 wins from 16 Premier League games, with an FA Cup thrown in for good measure - was the best of any Wenger team. Vieira and Petit with the FA Cup Credit: Russell Cheyne It may seem odd to select an Arsenal side other than the Invincibles but this team was slightly stronger defensively and would simply bully teams into submission, including a genuinely great Manchester United side. Some - such as Gary Neville - felt Arsenal’s 2003/04 side could sometimes be bullied themselves, an accusation you could never level at the 97/98 team. With Thierry Henry up front the 2001/02 double-winners are also worthy of consideration. But the team of Vieira, Petit and Tony Adams just edges it. Julian Bennetts

Can Man City's XI be hailed as the best? Our writers pick the finest teams they have seen in the flesh

Pace, power, a refusal to yield: Manchester United 2007-08   Unlike Manchester City’s accelerated opening this year, it started slowly for Manchester United in 2007-08: they didn’t register a win until their fourth league game, an undistinguished beginning reflected in the top-flight form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who didn’t score until the end of September. But thereafter he couldn’t stop: he ended with 31 league goals in 31 starts. With the kind of perfect timing that long characterised their manager Alex Ferguson’s approach to the title race, they won every game in March, without conceding a goal. It was, however, in the Champions League that this United side demonstrated how good they were. They won five and drew one of their group stage matches. They beat Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages, before easing past Chelsea in the final thanks to John Terry’s butter-footed penalty miss. Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw. The moment the team-sheet was handed in, the opposition was beaten. From Edwin van der Sar in goal, through the back four of Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, a midfield of Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves and a front three of Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, this was a team that perfectly mixed youth with experience, that had pace, power and balance coupled with a ruthless refusal to yield. Plus, it had plenty in reserve. Carlos Tevez (who made 34 appearances in the league alone), Nani, Louis Saha, Anderson and Darren Fletcher formed quite a bench. Jim White Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw Credit: Getty Images History makers: Manchester United 1998-99 The best-ever team has to be marked against an obvious criteria: what did they win. And only one team, the United side of 1998-99 has won the Champions League, the Premier League and FA Cup. It was never done before and has not been accomplished since. They were up against a formidable Arsenal side, Double winners the season before, who they also beat in a remarkable FA Cup semi-final, and they won the most dramatic Champions League final ever, against Bayern Munich. United had the most incredible midfield in Beckham, Scholes, Roy Keane and Giggs – and it is hard to see any of those players being dislodged by anyone who has played for United since – and a roster of impressive strikers. It was also Peter Schmeichel’s last season in goal for United who still had Gary Neville and Denis Irwin at full-backs with Jaap Stam having arrived at the heart of the defence. Jason Burt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer holds aloft the Champions League trophy  Credit: Getty Images Dalglish’s darlings: Liverpool 1987-88 Kenny Dalglish lost Ian Rush to Juventus in the summer of 1987, but brought in John Aldridge, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ray Houghton. What followed was the most exciting Liverpool team there has been, not only breathtaking going forward but with the midfield authority of Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon. Then they had captain Alan Hansen striding upfield from centre-half, while Steve Nicol – the finest full back in Liverpool’s history – had a tendency to score a hat-trick in between unstoppable combinations with Barnes on the left wing. This side should have won the Double in consecutive years, inexplicably losing to Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup final before their last-minute title defeat to Arsenal in 1989. The 87-88 season saw just two league defeats, scoring 87 goals and conceding 24. Chris Bascombe Peter Beardsley was one of Liverpool's star players Credit: Getty Images Peak Ferguson: Manchester United 1993-94 They won what was then only the fifth Double in the history English football, having broken the club’s 26-year run without a league title the previous season. This was a vintage Alex Ferguson side, full of great players. Eric Cantona was at his best and there was an old guard including Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Schmeichel and, in his final season at the club, Bryan Robson. On the wings Ferguson had the choice of Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis. Keane had joined from Nottingham Forest in the summer. United went to the top of the table at the end of August and stayed there. At Maine Road in November they came from two goals behind to beat Manchester City 3-2 with Keane getting the late winner. Only Aston Villa in the League Cup final stopped United from a domestic Treble. United lost only six games in all competitions, four in the league and the first leg of a League Cup tie against Stoke, as well as the final.  Even their Champions League elimination, to Galatasaray, was on away goals. Ferguson’s first title-winning team had hit their peak. Sam Wallace Cantona kisses the FA Cup trophy in 1994 Credit: Getty Images Persistently thrilling: Manchester United 1998-99 There was much to admire about United’s 1993/94 side – “real tough b-----ds” as Ferguson used to call them. The Premier League and Champions League winners of 2007-08 were also formidable. But it  is impossible to look past the 1998-99 side, not least because of the scale of their achievement. No English side before or since has won the league, FA Cup and European Cup in a single season. It was, is and remains a truly remarkable feat. But, more than just the achievement itself, the manner in which footballing immortality was attained made it so much more and sparked feelings of awe and jealousy in rivals across the land. The team was built around a posse of academy graduates, something that resonates even more strongly today given how so many young English footballers are struggling to get a chance. The sheer force of personality and will in that team still takes the breath away, no better embodied than in the triumphant Champions League semi-final and final comebacks against Juventus and Bayern Munich respectively. And amid all the quality there was a kamikaze streak that made them such a persistently thrilling spectacle. They oozed greatness. James Ducker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck the winning goal in a dramatic finale Credit: Action Images “I would love it …”: Newcastle United 1995-96 A strange choice, perhaps, given they failed to win a single trophy that season but sometimes it is not just about silverware. Three years earlier, Newcastle had not even been in the top flight and were nothing more than a case study in how to turn a fanatical fan base against their club. Kevin Keegan changed that and unleashed a new power on the Premier League, playing a style of football that put entertainment above results. They were brilliant to watch and were desperately unlucky not to win the title that year. In the process  of creating a cosmopolitan, swash-buckling, attacking team, Keegan also completely altered perceptions of a northern industrial city that had fallen on hard times. Without the rebirth of its football team and the feelgood factor that spread, Newcastle would not be the confident, sparking jewel in the North it is today. Luke Edwards Keegan's Newcastle put entertaining above results Credit: Getty Images Day of the underdog: Leicester City 2016-17 The Arsenal Invincibles and Manchester United’s Treble-winners of the late 1990s boasted the best players of the Premier League era, but it would be churlish to ignore Leicester City as the greatest team. Not since the halcyon days of Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough have a team grabbed us by the shirt collar and shredded the established order to create such magic. Leicester, and Claudio Ranieri,  may well have capitalised on the underachievements of bigger clubs but this was a time when all the ingredients combined to carve out something special. Players such as Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan were arguably at their career best, there was the emergence of a midfield destroyer named N’Golo Kante, while bargain buys Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater flourished in a team emboldened by spirit and togetherness. Ranieri had just experienced a nightmare with the Greece national team, only to recover spectacularly and etch his name into history. Leicester lost only three league games all season. The more you think about it, now the established order has returned to normal, it seems even more remarkable. John Percy Leicester did the unthinkable by winning the Premier League as almighty underdogs Credit: AFP The jewel in the crown: Arsenal 1997/1998 Arsene Wenger has built three truly great sides during his Arsenal tenure but the first one was the best. The double-winning side of 1997/98 was built on the legacy of the George Graham years in the shape of the famous back four, while up front there was a devastating array of attacking options in Dennis Bergkamp, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars. The jewel in the crown, though, was the central midfield partnership of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, surely the best the Premier League has seen. As a new team they took time to gel but their form from the turn of the year - 15 wins from 16 Premier League games, with an FA Cup thrown in for good measure - was the best of any Wenger team. Vieira and Petit with the FA Cup Credit: Russell Cheyne It may seem odd to select an Arsenal side other than the Invincibles but this team was slightly stronger defensively and would simply bully teams into submission, including a genuinely great Manchester United side. Some - such as Gary Neville - felt Arsenal’s 2003/04 side could sometimes be bullied themselves, an accusation you could never level at the 97/98 team. With Thierry Henry up front the 2001/02 double-winners are also worthy of consideration. But the team of Vieira, Petit and Tony Adams just edges it. Julian Bennetts

Can Man City's XI be hailed as the best? Our writers pick the finest teams they have seen in the flesh

Pace, power, a refusal to yield: Manchester United 2007-08   Unlike Manchester City’s accelerated opening this year, it started slowly for Manchester United in 2007-08: they didn’t register a win until their fourth league game, an undistinguished beginning reflected in the top-flight form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who didn’t score until the end of September. But thereafter he couldn’t stop: he ended with 31 league goals in 31 starts. With the kind of perfect timing that long characterised their manager Alex Ferguson’s approach to the title race, they won every game in March, without conceding a goal. It was, however, in the Champions League that this United side demonstrated how good they were. They won five and drew one of their group stage matches. They beat Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages, before easing past Chelsea in the final thanks to John Terry’s butter-footed penalty miss. Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw. The moment the team-sheet was handed in, the opposition was beaten. From Edwin van der Sar in goal, through the back four of Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, a midfield of Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves and a front three of Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, this was a team that perfectly mixed youth with experience, that had pace, power and balance coupled with a ruthless refusal to yield. Plus, it had plenty in reserve. Carlos Tevez (who made 34 appearances in the league alone), Nani, Louis Saha, Anderson and Darren Fletcher formed quite a bench. Jim White Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw Credit: Getty Images History makers: Manchester United 1998-99 The best-ever team has to be marked against an obvious criteria: what did they win. And only one team, the United side of 1998-99 has won the Champions League, the Premier League and FA Cup. It was never done before and has not been accomplished since. They were up against a formidable Arsenal side, Double winners the season before, who they also beat in a remarkable FA Cup semi-final, and they won the most dramatic Champions League final ever, against Bayern Munich. United had the most incredible midfield in Beckham, Scholes, Roy Keane and Giggs – and it is hard to see any of those players being dislodged by anyone who has played for United since – and a roster of impressive strikers. It was also Peter Schmeichel’s last season in goal for United who still had Gary Neville and Denis Irwin at full-backs with Jaap Stam having arrived at the heart of the defence. Jason Burt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer holds aloft the Champions League trophy  Credit: Getty Images Dalglish’s darlings: Liverpool 1987-88 Kenny Dalglish lost Ian Rush to Juventus in the summer of 1987, but brought in John Aldridge, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ray Houghton. What followed was the most exciting Liverpool team there has been, not only breathtaking going forward but with the midfield authority of Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon. Then they had captain Alan Hansen striding upfield from centre-half, while Steve Nicol – the finest full back in Liverpool’s history – had a tendency to score a hat-trick in between unstoppable combinations with Barnes on the left wing. This side should have won the Double in consecutive years, inexplicably losing to Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup final before their last-minute title defeat to Arsenal in 1989. The 87-88 season saw just two league defeats, scoring 87 goals and conceding 24. Chris Bascombe Peter Beardsley was one of Liverpool's star players Credit: Getty Images Peak Ferguson: Manchester United 1993-94 They won what was then only the fifth Double in the history English football, having broken the club’s 26-year run without a league title the previous season. This was a vintage Alex Ferguson side, full of great players. Eric Cantona was at his best and there was an old guard including Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Schmeichel and, in his final season at the club, Bryan Robson. On the wings Ferguson had the choice of Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis. Keane had joined from Nottingham Forest in the summer. United went to the top of the table at the end of August and stayed there. At Maine Road in November they came from two goals behind to beat Manchester City 3-2 with Keane getting the late winner. Only Aston Villa in the League Cup final stopped United from a domestic Treble. United lost only six games in all competitions, four in the league and the first leg of a League Cup tie against Stoke, as well as the final.  Even their Champions League elimination, to Galatasaray, was on away goals. Ferguson’s first title-winning team had hit their peak. Sam Wallace Cantona kisses the FA Cup trophy in 1994 Credit: Getty Images Persistently thrilling: Manchester United 1998-99 There was much to admire about United’s 1993/94 side – “real tough b-----ds” as Ferguson used to call them. The Premier League and Champions League winners of 2007-08 were also formidable. But it  is impossible to look past the 1998-99 side, not least because of the scale of their achievement. No English side before or since has won the league, FA Cup and European Cup in a single season. It was, is and remains a truly remarkable feat. But, more than just the achievement itself, the manner in which footballing immortality was attained made it so much more and sparked feelings of awe and jealousy in rivals across the land. The team was built around a posse of academy graduates, something that resonates even more strongly today given how so many young English footballers are struggling to get a chance. The sheer force of personality and will in that team still takes the breath away, no better embodied than in the triumphant Champions League semi-final and final comebacks against Juventus and Bayern Munich respectively. And amid all the quality there was a kamikaze streak that made them such a persistently thrilling spectacle. They oozed greatness. James Ducker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck the winning goal in a dramatic finale Credit: Action Images “I would love it …”: Newcastle United 1995-96 A strange choice, perhaps, given they failed to win a single trophy that season but sometimes it is not just about silverware. Three years earlier, Newcastle had not even been in the top flight and were nothing more than a case study in how to turn a fanatical fan base against their club. Kevin Keegan changed that and unleashed a new power on the Premier League, playing a style of football that put entertainment above results. They were brilliant to watch and were desperately unlucky not to win the title that year. In the process  of creating a cosmopolitan, swash-buckling, attacking team, Keegan also completely altered perceptions of a northern industrial city that had fallen on hard times. Without the rebirth of its football team and the feelgood factor that spread, Newcastle would not be the confident, sparking jewel in the North it is today. Luke Edwards Keegan's Newcastle put entertaining above results Credit: Getty Images Day of the underdog: Leicester City 2016-17 The Arsenal Invincibles and Manchester United’s Treble-winners of the late 1990s boasted the best players of the Premier League era, but it would be churlish to ignore Leicester City as the greatest team. Not since the halcyon days of Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough have a team grabbed us by the shirt collar and shredded the established order to create such magic. Leicester, and Claudio Ranieri,  may well have capitalised on the underachievements of bigger clubs but this was a time when all the ingredients combined to carve out something special. Players such as Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan were arguably at their career best, there was the emergence of a midfield destroyer named N’Golo Kante, while bargain buys Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater flourished in a team emboldened by spirit and togetherness. Ranieri had just experienced a nightmare with the Greece national team, only to recover spectacularly and etch his name into history. Leicester lost only three league games all season. The more you think about it, now the established order has returned to normal, it seems even more remarkable. John Percy Leicester did the unthinkable by winning the Premier League as almighty underdogs Credit: AFP The jewel in the crown: Arsenal 1997/1998 Arsene Wenger has built three truly great sides during his Arsenal tenure but the first one was the best. The double-winning side of 1997/98 was built on the legacy of the George Graham years in the shape of the famous back four, while up front there was a devastating array of attacking options in Dennis Bergkamp, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars. The jewel in the crown, though, was the central midfield partnership of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, surely the best the Premier League has seen. As a new team they took time to gel but their form from the turn of the year - 15 wins from 16 Premier League games, with an FA Cup thrown in for good measure - was the best of any Wenger team. Vieira and Petit with the FA Cup Credit: Russell Cheyne It may seem odd to select an Arsenal side other than the Invincibles but this team was slightly stronger defensively and would simply bully teams into submission, including a genuinely great Manchester United side. Some - such as Gary Neville - felt Arsenal’s 2003/04 side could sometimes be bullied themselves, an accusation you could never level at the 97/98 team. With Thierry Henry up front the 2001/02 double-winners are also worthy of consideration. But the team of Vieira, Petit and Tony Adams just edges it. Julian Bennetts

Can Man City's XI be hailed as the best? Our writers pick the finest teams they have seen in the flesh

Pace, power, a refusal to yield: Manchester United 2007-08   Unlike Manchester City’s accelerated opening this year, it started slowly for Manchester United in 2007-08: they didn’t register a win until their fourth league game, an undistinguished beginning reflected in the top-flight form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who didn’t score until the end of September. But thereafter he couldn’t stop: he ended with 31 league goals in 31 starts. With the kind of perfect timing that long characterised their manager Alex Ferguson’s approach to the title race, they won every game in March, without conceding a goal. It was, however, in the Champions League that this United side demonstrated how good they were. They won five and drew one of their group stage matches. They beat Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages, before easing past Chelsea in the final thanks to John Terry’s butter-footed penalty miss. Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw. The moment the team-sheet was handed in, the opposition was beaten. From Edwin van der Sar in goal, through the back four of Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, a midfield of Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves and a front three of Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, this was a team that perfectly mixed youth with experience, that had pace, power and balance coupled with a ruthless refusal to yield. Plus, it had plenty in reserve. Carlos Tevez (who made 34 appearances in the league alone), Nani, Louis Saha, Anderson and Darren Fletcher formed quite a bench. Jim White Ferguson’s third and last great United side, had no visible flaw Credit: Getty Images History makers: Manchester United 1998-99 The best-ever team has to be marked against an obvious criteria: what did they win. And only one team, the United side of 1998-99 has won the Champions League, the Premier League and FA Cup. It was never done before and has not been accomplished since. They were up against a formidable Arsenal side, Double winners the season before, who they also beat in a remarkable FA Cup semi-final, and they won the most dramatic Champions League final ever, against Bayern Munich. United had the most incredible midfield in Beckham, Scholes, Roy Keane and Giggs – and it is hard to see any of those players being dislodged by anyone who has played for United since – and a roster of impressive strikers. It was also Peter Schmeichel’s last season in goal for United who still had Gary Neville and Denis Irwin at full-backs with Jaap Stam having arrived at the heart of the defence. Jason Burt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer holds aloft the Champions League trophy  Credit: Getty Images Dalglish’s darlings: Liverpool 1987-88 Kenny Dalglish lost Ian Rush to Juventus in the summer of 1987, but brought in John Aldridge, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ray Houghton. What followed was the most exciting Liverpool team there has been, not only breathtaking going forward but with the midfield authority of Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon. Then they had captain Alan Hansen striding upfield from centre-half, while Steve Nicol – the finest full back in Liverpool’s history – had a tendency to score a hat-trick in between unstoppable combinations with Barnes on the left wing. This side should have won the Double in consecutive years, inexplicably losing to Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup final before their last-minute title defeat to Arsenal in 1989. The 87-88 season saw just two league defeats, scoring 87 goals and conceding 24. Chris Bascombe Peter Beardsley was one of Liverpool's star players Credit: Getty Images Peak Ferguson: Manchester United 1993-94 They won what was then only the fifth Double in the history English football, having broken the club’s 26-year run without a league title the previous season. This was a vintage Alex Ferguson side, full of great players. Eric Cantona was at his best and there was an old guard including Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Schmeichel and, in his final season at the club, Bryan Robson. On the wings Ferguson had the choice of Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis. Keane had joined from Nottingham Forest in the summer. United went to the top of the table at the end of August and stayed there. At Maine Road in November they came from two goals behind to beat Manchester City 3-2 with Keane getting the late winner. Only Aston Villa in the League Cup final stopped United from a domestic Treble. United lost only six games in all competitions, four in the league and the first leg of a League Cup tie against Stoke, as well as the final.  Even their Champions League elimination, to Galatasaray, was on away goals. Ferguson’s first title-winning team had hit their peak. Sam Wallace Cantona kisses the FA Cup trophy in 1994 Credit: Getty Images Persistently thrilling: Manchester United 1998-99 There was much to admire about United’s 1993/94 side – “real tough b-----ds” as Ferguson used to call them. The Premier League and Champions League winners of 2007-08 were also formidable. But it  is impossible to look past the 1998-99 side, not least because of the scale of their achievement. No English side before or since has won the league, FA Cup and European Cup in a single season. It was, is and remains a truly remarkable feat. But, more than just the achievement itself, the manner in which footballing immortality was attained made it so much more and sparked feelings of awe and jealousy in rivals across the land. The team was built around a posse of academy graduates, something that resonates even more strongly today given how so many young English footballers are struggling to get a chance. The sheer force of personality and will in that team still takes the breath away, no better embodied than in the triumphant Champions League semi-final and final comebacks against Juventus and Bayern Munich respectively. And amid all the quality there was a kamikaze streak that made them such a persistently thrilling spectacle. They oozed greatness. James Ducker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struck the winning goal in a dramatic finale Credit: Action Images “I would love it …”: Newcastle United 1995-96 A strange choice, perhaps, given they failed to win a single trophy that season but sometimes it is not just about silverware. Three years earlier, Newcastle had not even been in the top flight and were nothing more than a case study in how to turn a fanatical fan base against their club. Kevin Keegan changed that and unleashed a new power on the Premier League, playing a style of football that put entertainment above results. They were brilliant to watch and were desperately unlucky not to win the title that year. In the process  of creating a cosmopolitan, swash-buckling, attacking team, Keegan also completely altered perceptions of a northern industrial city that had fallen on hard times. Without the rebirth of its football team and the feelgood factor that spread, Newcastle would not be the confident, sparking jewel in the North it is today. Luke Edwards Keegan's Newcastle put entertaining above results Credit: Getty Images Day of the underdog: Leicester City 2016-17 The Arsenal Invincibles and Manchester United’s Treble-winners of the late 1990s boasted the best players of the Premier League era, but it would be churlish to ignore Leicester City as the greatest team. Not since the halcyon days of Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough have a team grabbed us by the shirt collar and shredded the established order to create such magic. Leicester, and Claudio Ranieri,  may well have capitalised on the underachievements of bigger clubs but this was a time when all the ingredients combined to carve out something special. Players such as Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan were arguably at their career best, there was the emergence of a midfield destroyer named N’Golo Kante, while bargain buys Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater flourished in a team emboldened by spirit and togetherness. Ranieri had just experienced a nightmare with the Greece national team, only to recover spectacularly and etch his name into history. Leicester lost only three league games all season. The more you think about it, now the established order has returned to normal, it seems even more remarkable. John Percy Leicester did the unthinkable by winning the Premier League as almighty underdogs Credit: AFP The jewel in the crown: Arsenal 1997/1998 Arsene Wenger has built three truly great sides during his Arsenal tenure but the first one was the best. The double-winning side of 1997/98 was built on the legacy of the George Graham years in the shape of the famous back four, while up front there was a devastating array of attacking options in Dennis Bergkamp, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars. The jewel in the crown, though, was the central midfield partnership of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, surely the best the Premier League has seen. As a new team they took time to gel but their form from the turn of the year - 15 wins from 16 Premier League games, with an FA Cup thrown in for good measure - was the best of any Wenger team. Vieira and Petit with the FA Cup Credit: Russell Cheyne It may seem odd to select an Arsenal side other than the Invincibles but this team was slightly stronger defensively and would simply bully teams into submission, including a genuinely great Manchester United side. Some - such as Gary Neville - felt Arsenal’s 2003/04 side could sometimes be bullied themselves, an accusation you could never level at the 97/98 team. With Thierry Henry up front the 2001/02 double-winners are also worthy of consideration. But the team of Vieira, Petit and Tony Adams just edges it. Julian Bennetts

Nottingham Forest 0 Cardiff 2: Visitors stay in touch at top of table, but time-wasting tactics anger hosts

Nottingham Forest 0 Cardiff 2: Visitors stay in touch at top of table, but time-wasting tactics anger hosts

Cardiff City's Junior Hoilett and Danny Ward see off Nottingham Forest to stay on Wolves' tails

Cardiff City's Junior Hoilett and Danny Ward see off Nottingham Forest to stay on Wolves' tails

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