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West Brom 1-2 Manchester United talking points: Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard and more
Last Updated: 18/12/17 7:41am
We round up the talking points from Manchester United's scrappy 2-1 win over West Brom at The Hawthorns on Super Sunday.
Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard were on target in the first half, and United survived a nervous finale after Gareth Barry pulled one back with his first goal for West Brom in the closing stages.
The win reopens their three-point gap on third-placed Chelsea and keeps West Brom in the relegation zone. Here are four talking points.
Lukaku on target
Lukaku was criticised for his poor big-game record after his nightmare day in the Manchester derby last weekend, but after scoring the winning goal against Bournemouth in midweek, the Belgian provided another reminder of how effective he can be against the Premier League's lesser lights.
'Why is Lukaku not celebrating?'
Romelu Lukaku scored again - but the Sky Sports pundits questioned his decision not to celebrate.
His goal, a fine glancing header from Marcus Rashford's cross midway through the first half, was his 31st in 39 Premier League appearances against the teams outside the big six. He will ultimately be judged on what he delivers against United's direct rivals, but for a team who struggled so badly against the smaller teams last season, his efficiency in games like these is valuable.
The next step, according to the Sky Sports punditry team, is to start celebrating his goals. "He's had some criticism recently but when you score, you celebrate with those fans jumping up behind that goal," said Gary Neville. "Celebrate with those fans, endear yourself to them."
Lingard's stock is rising
Lingard underlined his growing importance to Mourinho's side with his goal and impressive all-round performance at the Hawthorns. The 25-year-old, a peripheral figure in the opening two months of the season, has now started United's last five consecutive Premier League games, scoring four times and providing one assist from the No 10 role.
He is clearly relishing the opportunity to play centrally, where he can receive passes between the lines and dovetail with Lukaku on the break, and he is influential without the ball too. It is becoming customary for Lingard to cover more ground and make more sprints than any of his team-mates. His intensity ensured West Brom's defenders had little time to settle in possession.
"He pops up with important goals," said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp afterwards. "Another winner today. He is becoming really influential in this team."
Valencia blow for United
Antonio Valencia's withdrawal with what looked like a hamstring injury is a headache for Mourinho. United are gearing up for a hectic run of four games in 10 days, and they might now have to navigate it without one of their most reliable performers. Valencia has started every one of their Premier League games this season up until now.
The right-back is a key figure and United certainly felt his absence following his withdrawal midway through the second half. Marcos Rojo, his replacement, was partly at fault for Barry's goal, failing to clear the corner, and he had another nervous moment when he failed to connect with a routine clearance shortly after that. He may need to be rather sharper in the weeks ahead.
Hope for Pardew?
Alan Pardew is still without a win as West Brom manager but he will take encouragement from their late rally here. Barry's close-range strike was the first goal of his tenure, and there were chances to steal a point after that, with Jay Rodriguez heading the best of them narrowly wide.
The defeat continues their long winless run and keeps them two points adrift of safety, but Pardew will strengthen his squad in January and there was a reminder of how dangerous they can be from set pieces following Chris Brunt's introduction. Pardew has promised to bring a new style to The Hawthorns but West Brom must not lose sight of one of their most dangerous weapons.
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