Wow, what a day. Where do you begin to pull apart Saturday’s wonderful 2-1 triumph at Manchester United? It’s certainly a first in my lifetime- I’m referring to an Old Trafford win of course and not just being shown first on Match of the Day writes Baggies blogger Warren Stephens.
It’s a result that’s sent shockwaves through English football, the reverberations from which will have been painfully felt in the armchairs and sofas of Manchester United supporters across the country.
Even for those old enough to remember ‘that’ game in 1978, it must have seemed like a lifetime since. This victory was perhaps born as much from doggedness and determination as the flamboyance of the famous 5-3 victory, but that’s not to suggest Albion weren’t fluent, inventive and devastating on the attack when we had to be.
The front four were awesome, the back seven brilliant also. Jonas Olsson and Claudio Yacob arguably back to their best, the attacking diamond of Stephane Sessegnon, Victor Anichebe, Saido Berahino and Morgan Amalfitano looked like they’d been playing together for years, and some people said they weren’t happy with our signings in the transfer window?!
I’m not sure much can be said about those attacking players that hasn’t been already, but Amalfitano looks a steal, his crosses are Beckham-esque, he looks technically sound, he works hard and he can dribble, as Rio Ferdinand found out. You have to wonder why he hasn’t played more than once for France.
Sessegnon has a touch of class about him, I hope he’s that good every week. Anichebe works hard, is a nuisance and helps us keep the ball up in the opponents’ half with his physical presence. As for Berahino, the kid just looks unfazed doesn’t he? What a find he may prove to be and what a commendably grounded attitude he seems to have, which seems so rare in younger players today.
It was of course only 90 minutes and Manchester United were probably slightly below par, as aspects of the national media seem quite keen to tell us, but that shouldn’t detract from Albion’s excellence and a lengthy period of gloom that’s enveloped the Hawthorns recently, feels as though it’s been blown away after consecutive wins.
Huge credit must go to Head Coach Steve Clarke, he’s received criticism for Albion’s form since the turn of the year and has sometimes cut a lonely figure in the dugout, but he couldn’t have set the team up any better than he did on Saturday.
We were compact without the ball and pressed brilliantly when we needed to, as is often the case, but also showed some real quality in possession going forward.
Clarke repeatedly asked for attacking options during the transfer window and now he’s got them we seem to be reaping some rewards. Our counter-attacking can take on an added dimension against the top sides and hopefully, with a wealth of offensive options to choose from, we’ll be more effective in games where the onus falls on us to be the more adventurous side.
Crucially, for me, the players are still consistently displaying huge belief in their boss with the work ethic they put into games. Some more results like Saturday and hopefully some more of Clarke’s doubters will begin to share that confidence.
Next up it’s Arsenal, who are the league leaders and have just set a club record of consecutive away wins, but that run has to end sometime doesn’t it?
One of those away wins was 2-1 at the Hawthorns back in April, despite the result I actually thought Arsenal were as vulnerable as they had been for many a year that day. They’ve obviously made a couple of quality additions since then and their kids didn’t look too bad last week either. Even so, there’s a history of this fixture being competitive and with Albion full of confidence, who knows what can happen?
It will be intriguing to discover Steve Clarke’s line-up, to use a Tony Mowbray-ism I would suggest it will be difficult to look past those 11 players that finished the game at Old Trafford last weekend, but it will obviously depend on how Clarke wants to set his team up.
One thing’s for sure, Chris Brunt, James Morrison, Nicolas Anelka, Zoltan Gera, Graham Dorrans, Markus Rosenberg, Shane Long, Matej Vydra and the unfortunate Scott Sinclair- who was beginning to show signs of what he’s capable of- will have to work pretty hard to secure their places in the first team going forward and that can only be a good thing. The landscape’s suddenly looking a little bit brighter. Come on you Baggies!!