Two goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic secured a 2-0 victory for Manchester United away to West Brom on Saturday.
The Sweden star hit his 15th and 16th goals of the season – one in each half – to extend United’s run to four wins in a row in all competitions and put them level on points with fifth-place Tottenham in the Premier League.
Ibrahimovic needed only five minutes to make his mark at The Hawthorns, heading in Jesse Lingard’s cross to put the visitors ahead, although he was a little fortunate to stay on the pitch beyond the 24th minute after he deliberately barged into Craig Dawson.
Wayne Rooney, still one goal short of equalling Bobby Charlton’s United record of 249 goals, had a shot tipped onto the crossbar and Lingard also wasting a good opening before the break.
But Ibrahimovic fired in a deflected effort after 56 minutes to double United’s lead and ease any fears of more dropped points from a winning position.
West Brom offered little by way of a threat to David de Gea’s goal and should have been reduced to 10 men themselves, when Salomon Rondon slapped Marcos Rojo and only received a booking.
The end of their three-game winning run at home sees them stay seventh in the table, while United are now on 30 points alongside Spurs, having played a game more.
West Brom started on the front foot, but a clinical passage of play from United saw them silence the home fans after only five minutes.
Antonio Valencia, back in the side following suspension, sent a long ball down the line into the path of Lingard, and his fine first-time cross from the right was nodded into the net by the arriving Ibrahimovic.
15 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 15 goals in all competitions this season; 10 more than any Man Utd player. Leader.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 17, 2016
The goal sapped the home side’s early confidence and it took a brilliant reaction save from Ben Foster to deny Rooney a second, with the former United goalkeeper tipping his snapshot from 20 yards against the crossbar.
Ibrahimovic upset the home fans when he only received a yellow card for a bruising shoulder-charge on Dawson, before Rondon, fresh from his headed hat-trick against Swansea City, glanced a Matt Phillips cross narrowly past De Gea’s left-hand post.
United’s approach play lacked a lot of the fluency they have found of late, but Lingard wasted a glorious chance to make it 2-0 after a good move just before the break, as he lashed over from a tight angle with only Foster to beat.
But if there were any concerns about Jose Mourinho’s men throwing away another 1-0 lead, they were put to bed by Ibrahimovic 11 minutes after the restart.
Picking up Rooney’s pass to the left of the West Brom area, the veteran striker drove infield and drilled a low shot that took a big deflection on its way into the bottom corner of Foster’s net.
West Brom’s frustrations were building and Rondon was lucky to receive only a yellow card from referee Anthony Taylor after slapping Rojo following an argument.
Tony Pulis urged his players forward in the closing stages, but United held firm with few concerns to make it 10 games in a row without defeat in a promising resurgence of form.
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