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Man United vs West Brom: The legacy of Fergie’s 5-5 send-off against the Baggies still lingers at Old Trafford

29 Apr | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Man United vs West Brom: The legacy of Fergie’s 5-5 send-off against the Baggies still lingers at Old Trafford

Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game underlined structural issues in the United squad. How much have things changed under Louis van Gaal?

On the face of it, Manchester United vs. West Browmich Albion is one of those late-season fixtures that both sides would gladly swerve.

United are not going to win the Premier League title. They never were, of course, but they definitely won’t now their charmed winning run has spluttered out of existence. Defeats at Stamford Bridge and Goodison Park – hardly shameful results in themselves – have ushered Louis van Gaal’s charges into thinking-about-next-season territory, especially with Liverpool making such a pig’s ear of keeping the race for the final Champions League spot interesting.

West Brom, meanwhile, are bathing in the warm afterglow of the Tony Pulis Survival Explosion, a now-annual meteorological phenomenon whose existence has become one of the pillars of Western science. They won’t go down; there are far too many worse teams in that relegation battle. The only thing motivating Pulis in the final weeks of the season is the possibility of beating his personal best (seven) for number of centre-backs picked in the same starting XI.

But while league-table intrigue is lacking, this game is not without interest. 

It was against West Brom that Sir Alex Ferguson made his final bow as United boss, sniggering and huffing his way through a ludicrous, scarcely-believable 5-5 (five-five!) draw at the Hawthorns. 

Many wrote the game off as a blowout, a fitting last act for a man whose desire for attacking football usually outweighed any commitment to defending. But history has since recast it as a harbinger of things to come, hinting at the imbalance of the squad bequeathed to poor old David Moyes. Certainly, the fragility of that performance reflected the reality of the situation more than another Premier League trophy did.

Moyes was unable to right the ship, failing to impose himself and paying the price in painful fashion. Van Gaal, after a shaky start, has certainly made a better fist of it, but only the most blindly optimistic fan would deny that United are still suffering a Fergie hangover.

The big-name purchases of the last two years have had symbolic value, yet this is a squad that needs major work. Michael Carrick won’t go on forever. None of the centre-backs has lived up to expectations. Robin van Persie is broken. Radamel Falcao… well, the less said the better. The issues neglected by Ferguson in the final months of his tenure still hang over the club.

We probably won’t get a 5-5 draw this weekend. For United fans, that’s probably a good thing, and progress in the last six months or so has been promising. But much remains to be done before we can call them title challengers again.