FIRST HALF – HONOURS EVEN
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made two changes to his previous starting XI by replacing the injured Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay with Alex Telles and Nemanja Matic, with the former making his Old Trafford debut. Notably, Paul Pogba was omitted from the 18-man squad to an ankle injury sustained with France.
Wearing black armbands in tribute to the late Albert Quixall, United started brightly and Anthony Martial went close to scoring in the very first minute with a glancing header from Juan Mata’s cross, yet the outstanding opportunity of the opening stages arrived in the 17th minute.
It started with Harry Maguire intercepting a loose ball on the half-way line, driving forward and playing it out wide to Marcus Rashford. His cross found Fernandes and the Portuguese teed up Martial, whose shot from close range was brilliantly saved by former United man Johnstone.
Not to be outdone at the other end, United no.1 David De Gea showed his quality a moment later with a brilliant fingertip stop to prod Karlan Grant’s right-footed shot just inches wide of the post.
The Baggies held a deep defensive line and that frustrated the Reds, yet Fernandes almost inspired an opening in the 33rd minute, with an outstanding pass towards the back post that Mata directed back into the six-yard box. A deflection off a defender left the ball lingering in the air and Martial was marginally beaten to a 50/50 by the advancing Johnstone.
Maguire was next to go close with a thunderous volley that smashed into the face of West Brom captain Bartley, who went down in a heap as a result, yet he quickly rose to his feet and almost netted himself in the 42nd minute with a header that landed on the roof of De Gea’s goal.