At the site of Sir Alex Ferguson’s final match in charge of Manchester United, his replacement David Moyes secured a most-welcome three points to provide a boost to his troubled first season in charge.
In their first outing since the woeful defeat at Olympiakos and in the week that Moyes had written an open letter to supporters outlining his belief that better things were around the corner, United will have been happy to be facing one of the few clubs at a lower ebb than themselves. An improved display and goals from Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck gave the Premier League champions their most emphatic win of 2014 and only their fourth victory of the year to move, at least temporarily, above Everton into sixth place in the table.
There was a rare instance of Moyes not being the manager under most pressure heading into the game. Pepe Mel had yet to win in his first six matches in charge and, with West Brom only just above the relegation zone, his job was rumored to be under threat. Once more his side had worryingly little to offer going forwards their drought under the Spaniard continued.
Former United goalkeeper Ben Foster was the first man forced into action when he pulled off a one-handed save to deny Rafael’s back-post header. But, with 34 minutes on the clock, he could do nothing to prevent another header finding the net. Robin van Persie’s in-swinging free-kick was fizzed in superbly and Jones, on his return from injury, got in front of his marker, to flash a header in from 10 yards.
Victor Anichebe had one of West Brom’s few chances before the break when he did well to hold off Jones before firing wide. At the other end, Foster was fortunate to escape sanction when the ball, albeit unintentionally, struck his arm outside his area.
But it was Manchester United that were breathing a heavy sigh of relief after the break. Having just been booked, Van Persie somehow escaped a second yellow card for a late challenge on West Brom defender Steven Reid. It’s hard not to think that referee Jonathan Moss would have produced a second yellow had Van Persie not already been shown his first.
West Brom may look back upon that moment as a turning point, with United then going onto stroll to a comfortable win. Rafael’s cross from the right in the 65th minute found Rooney unmarked to head home at the far post. And an encouraging one-touch move involving the impressive Marouane Fellaini rounded out the win eight minutes from time. The interchange culminated in Rooney feeding the ball through to Welbeck before the man who had replaced Van Persie took a touch before bending a shot past Foster.