Jesse Lingard’s first goal for Manchester United and a late Juan Mata penalty secured a 2-0 Premier League win over West Brom at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Louis van Gaal’s side snatched a late goal in midweek against CSKA Moscow and the match looked to be following a similar pattern as West Brom’s defensive approach kept them at arm’s length.
But Lingard broke the deadlock with a fine finish shortly after half-time as United finally made their dominance count.
Saido Berahino, surprisingly left on the bench, headed a wonderful chance over the crossbar in the closing stages as West Brom looked for an equaliser, but United extended their lead in injury-time as Anthony Martial was fouled by Gareth McAuley – an offence which earned the Northern Ireland international a red card – and Mata netted from the spot.
United began with typical control of possession, but it took 15 minutes for the first real chance to be created, as Mata curled a shot just wide of goalkeeper Boaz Myhill’s right-hand post after Wayne Rooney had found him in space in the area.
Van Gaal’s men enjoyed 76 per cent possession in the opening 35 minutes but found it difficult to break through West Brom’s defensive lines, though it took a superb sliding block from Jonny Evans to deny Lingard as he broke into the area.
Myhill remained unchallenged until just before the break, when Martial turned superbly on the edge of the area before firing a shot straight at the 32-year-old.
United’s pressure finally told seven minutes into the second half. Martial’s cross from the left was headed away only as far as Lingard, who took a touch before placing a side-footed finish into the far corner from 20 yards out.
The game began to open up as West Brom sought an unlikely equaliser and Pulis opted to throw on Berahino in hope of a repeat of his Old Trafford strike from two seasons ago.
And the 22-year-old wasted a glorious chance within minutes of his introduction, heading Craig Dawson’s cross over when totally unmarked inside the six-yard box.
Evans was fortunate to escape a handball on the edge of the area from a Mata flick as United, who handed a senior debut to Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, chased a crucial second goal to alleviate the tension inside Old Trafford.
Lingard’s penalty appeals were waved away after a soft push by McAuley but United clinched the victory in stoppage time. Martial was brought down by a desperate challenge from McAuley, allowing Mata to clip a penalty straight down the middle of Myhill’s goal.
McAuley was dismissed and United saw out the remaining three minutes in comfortable fashion as they ended a run of three straight draws in domestic competition.