Manchester United travelled to West Brom today in need of an improved performance, and, more importantly, a convincing result.
The pressure has been building on David Moyes and this display will give him and the United fans cause for optimism and confidence going into a tough run of fixtures in the coming weeks.
Moyes fielded a side that many perceived to be his strongest, with an attacking quartet of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj backed up with an accomplished display from the powerful Marouane Fellaini and the ever-reliable Michael Carrick in midfield. It can be argued that this was Fellaini's strongest performance in a red shirt to date.
The Man of the match could have been awarded to any number of the aforementioned, but it was Rafael da Silva - playing in his usual high-tempo, energetic fashion from right-back - who was the standout.
The Brazilian could have scored in the first half as he forced a header towards goal only to be thwarted by a world-class save from Ben Foster in the Albion goal. The full-back then went on to set-up Rooney for the second goal of the day with a cross to the back post and was consistent defensively throughout.
United enjoyed the majority of possession in the first half and deserved their lead when Phil Jones crashed a header home from a Van Persie free-kick in the 34th minute, following a foul on the marauding Rafael on the edge of the West Brom area.
Further cause for optimism for Moyes will be the stability in the centre of defence with England duo Jones and Chris Smalling marshalling the powerful Victor Anichebe. David de Gea was also a key component for United in keeping a clean sheet with an outstanding save from Zoltan Gera to the keep the Reds' noses in front.
Although it wasn't the highest quality of opposition - with West Brom loitering just outside of the relegation places - they have caused problems for both Chelsea and Liverpool in recent times, with both clubs travelling to the Midlands in February leaving with only a share of the spoils.
The Hawthorns is not the easiest place to pick up points. United didn't give them a chance to get into the game, with the interplay between Mata and Rooney wonderful to watch at times. Rooney set-up United's third with a typical defence-splitting slide-rule pass to Danny Welbeck, who curled his finish expertly into the far corner in the 82nd minute.
For all positives United will take back up to Manchester, they had much in reserve with Van Persie slightly off colour and lucky to avoid a second yellow card for a late tackle. The crafty Januzaj also remained on the periphery throughout and Shinji Kagawa was only given 15 minutes to show what he can do.
If David Moyes can get all of these creative talents firing to build on today's display, United will be in good shape for the remainder of the season.
Moyes will be hoping that this performance will be the start of a revival for the men from Old Trafford with the target of Champions League qualification starting against Liverpool next weekend.
This will go down as one of United's best displays of the season and if they can maintain this level of performance from now until May, Moyes and the Old Trafford faithful can cling onto the hope that they can hunt down a top-four finish.
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