FT: Manchester United 2 West Brom 0

And that's it! Gareth McAuley had given United the lead early on, while Robin van Persie notched up his 17th of the season to keep the three points in Manchester. There will be plenty of positives for West Brom to take out of this game though, so not all doom and gloom for Steve Clarke's men. Well, I hope you've enjoyed it! I'm Ryan Gordon wishing you all a great New Year's Eve and a prosperous 2013. Cheers all!

We're into the third of four added minutes at Old Trafford, and Sir Alex Ferguson has finally taken a seat. He's been up and down the touchline for most of the game, and now he gets a deserved rest.

That. Is. Sensational. Robin van Persie picks up the ball on the corner of the area, uses his body well to cut back inside before unleashing a simply stunning curling effort which scorches past Ben Foster before bursting the back of the net. Game, set and match United.

GOAL! Manchester United 2-0 West Brom! Robin van Persie!

I hear their will be four minutes of added time to come. Danny Welbeck almost wraps it up right here and now, but Foster again produces a sublime fingertip save to send the striker's effort away from danger.

Chris Walters is back, and writes: Paul Scholes continuing to be picked is tragic in that it highlights an old man's delusion about the abilities of one no longer young. There's some lesson in mortality there, but I can't be bothered. I would be happily wrong, but at this point I anticipate a draw.

Peter Odemwingie's has a shot from range, and although it's not the greatest effort it would have just taken a touch from any player to divert it past the keeper and into the back of the net.

An equally important interception at the other end as Nemanja Vidic just prevents Fortune's cut-back from finding the unmarked Lukaku.

Vital interception from McAuley now as he just gets a toe to Robin van Persie's through-ball to prevent Danny Welbeck from skipping clean through on goal.

A change from either side now as United introduced Paul Scholes for Tom Cleverley, while in the other technical area Marc-Antoine Fortune comes on for Graham Dorrans.

Robin van Persie has his first sight of goal, but Foster pulls off a fine save to prevent the Dutchman's low shot from finding the back of the net.

Lukaku and Smalling go head-to-head again, with the former winning a corner off the latter. The delivery isn't too bad and the ball eventually falls to Dorrans, but his shot from the edge of the area is quickly closed down.

Ashley Young works himself a good shooting chance, but he fires straight at Foster who makes a simply save.

Lukaku shows great strength to simply brush aside Chris Smalling inside the area, but his attempted cut-back can't find a team-mate and United clear up field.

Really good build-up play from West Brom now as they play the ball around on the edge of the area, but Peter Odemwingie's eventual shot is blocked on the edge of the area.

Still a slender lead for Premier League frontrunners Man Utd, with Sky Bet going 11/8 that there will be no further goals, while substitute Robin van Persie is 4/1 to score next.

Another change for West Brom now, with James Morrison coming on for Chris Brunt.

Van Persie hasn't really had a chance to get involved yet, but that's down to the fact West Brom are keeping the ball in the United third. The Dutchman has actually just come back well into his own half to get a touch of the ball, but it's much more promising from the visitors in this half.

West Brom won't come much closer without scoring as the woodwork prevents Gareth McAuley's header from finding the back of the net.

Jonny Evans thinks he's won a free-kick, but it turns out to be a free-kick and replays show the ref got it right.

Lukaku instantly gets involved and wins his side a corner. The delivery is not very good though and flies over everyone's heads.

West Brom reply in kind now, with on-loan Chelsea playmaker Romelu Lukaku coming on for Marcus Rosenberg.

And here comes the first change of the afternoon, with Shinji Kagawa still not at 100% fitness and is replaced by Robin van Persie.

Antonio Valencia breaks into the area from out wide before forcing Ben Foster to put his shot behind for a corner.

Worrying sign for West Brom now as Robin van Persie is told to start warming up.

First booking of the afternoon goes to Antonio Valencia as he hacks down Peter Odemwingie out wide.

Antonio Valencia gets a good low cross into the area to find Ashley Young, but he takes his eye off the ball and completely misses his effort.

Odemwingie receives the ball out wide and gets past Smalling all too easily, but his cut-back flies through everyone in the United area and a really good chance goes begging.

Shane Long dpoes really well to cushion his header down into the path of Peter Odemwingie, but he's quickly closed down on the edge of the area and eventually robbed of possession.

Vidic and Evans get in each others way though and combine to loop the ball up in the air and into the goalkeeper's hands.

United turning the screw at the moment and are getting plenty of bodies into the area, while they've just won their second corner in quick succession.

Markus Rosenberg tries for a spectacular over-head kick, but he can't make any connection and lands flat on his back in the United area.

Much better from the visitors now who put together some decent passes, but Shane Long can't quite get his head on the final delivery as Vidic beats him to the ball and clears.

Great chance for Gareth McAuley to make up for his first-half own-goal as he finds himself unmarked at the far-post to get on the end of Brunt's free-kick, but he gets his header all wrong and sends the ball away from goal.

Up at the other end and Chris Brunt gets a rasping drive away from long-range, but it's straight at David de Gea who easily saves. End to end stuff at the moment as Cleverley wiggles his way into the area, but he can't get past the final man and the ball eventually rolls through to Foster.

Antonio Valencia finds himself in plenty of space and breaks through on goal before sliding the ball to Kagawa, but the Japan international can't turn his man and West Brom can clear.

The corner eventually falls to Shinji Kagawa, but his shot is block point-blank and West Brom hang on.

Better from United now who string together plenty of passes before Cleverley's delivery is eventually defected out for a corner.

Subdued opening couple of minutes after the restart, with the ball staying bogged down in the middle of the park.

And we're back under way for the second-half here at Old Trafford!

Man Utd are 4/1 to run out 3-0 winners over West Brom, who are 8/1 to bite back and earn a draw, or 10/1 to force a 1-1 final score with Sky Bet.

And that will be the last piece of action for the first-half. United head down the tunnel with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Gareth McAuley's own-goal, and West Brom will need a much-improved performance in the second-half if they are to find a way back into the game.

But Chris Brunt can only smash his shot straight against the wall.

The delivery from the set-piece is dangerous and causes chaos in the United box, and although the defence eventually clears, they concede another free-kick, and this one is in an even more promising position, right on the edge of the area and in front of goal...

Good chance for West Brom to pull one back before the break as Jonny Evans concedes a foul just outside the area. They'll have one minute of added time to find something here...

Ben Foster is a very lucky man. He dawdles on his clearance from a back-pass and allows Danny Welbeck to block the ball, but the striker sees the deflection fizz just the wrong side of the post. The goalkeeper shakes his head as he walks to take the goal-kick, and rightfully so.

Billy Jones tries to switch on over for Shane Long, but that really is a dreadful pass and the ball sails out for a throw-in to United. 'Poor' is the only word to describe that one.

The possession stats coming down a bit more in Albion's favour since earlier on, but only marginally as the hosts are still enjoying around 63% of the ball.

Peter Odemwingie shows a glimpse of what he's capable of as he shows a great turn of pace before breaking through two defenders, but his shot is wayward and doesn't trouble the United goal.

Chris Smalling picks out Antonio Valencia with a wonderful pass to send the winger flying down field, but with three team-mates in the box he holds up his delivery for far too long and the ball is eventually hacked clear by the defence. Real waste of a chance to get a dangerous ball into the area there.

Vital interception from Tamas now as he just manages to poke a through-ball out for a corner with Shinji Kagawa looking to run onto the ball. Nemanja Vidic manages to get his head to the resulting corner, but he's off target and the effort won't trouble Foster.

David Lawrence says: Why Fortune and Lukaku are on the bench again is beyond me... 4-0 United, Baggies haven't a prayer here

From the resulting corner United almost find a second as Young does well to work the ball to Michael Carrick inside the area, but his low drive is blocked on the line and the visitors breath a sigh of relief.

Brilliant save from Ben Foster! United break like lighting with Antonio Valencia eventually hanging up a delivery to meet the run of Ashley Young, but his fierce half-volley is just tipped onto the crossbar and out. What a save that was!

West Brom have a free-kick in a really promising position by the angle of the United area, but Chris Brunt's effort is really poor and barely leaves the ground before being thumped clear by the wall.

Up at the other end and Ashley Young gets onto the end of a good delivery in the area, but there's an awful lot of spin on the ball and his header fizzes well wide of the goal.

United look well organised at the back and easily absorb any potential threat building down the wings, which is where West Brom are doing most of their probing.

West Brom are spending more time in the United half now, most recently forcing Vidic into a decent sliding tackle by the corner flag.

Safety first from Nemanja Vidic as he calmly plays the ball straight out of play with Shane Long baring down on him from midfield.

Silky passing from United as they carve open the Albion defence, Kagawa at the heart of the move as he plays a couple of one-twos in and around the area, although the visiting defenders just manage to get a toe in to break the chain of passes and ease what was beginning to look a really dangerous move.

A quarter of a way through the game already and United have been largely untroubled all over the pitch. West Brom really need to find some sort of inspiration if they are to rescue this one.

To give you an idea of United's dominance on the ball so far, the possession stats read 79% in favour of the hosts.

Calls for a penalty from the home fans now as Shinji Kagawa's cross appears to strike the arm of Billy Jones, but replays show the ball clearly hits the defender's chest.

Chris Smalling launches a route-one ball over the top, and it turns out to be a really decent one which Danny Welbeck just needs to get a touch on, but he can't quite make the connection and Ben Foster is grateful to snap up the ball.

West Brom are now a massive 16/1 to win at Old Trafford, and even as long as 8/1 to salvage a draw. Danny Welbeck is the favourite to score next at 7/2 while United to win 3-0 is priced 6/1 with Sky Bet.

The hosts quickly win the ball back though and revert to a cool, calm and collected passing routine. It's mostly at the back though as they look to invite the Albion midfield a little more forward.

United enjoying all of the possession now, although Nemanja Vidic gives it away with a mis-placed pass out wide.

Manchester United take the lead within 10 minutes of the kick-off, although it was a soft one for West Brom to concede as a miss-hit clearance allows Ashley Young to get on the end of a scrappy one-two with Shinji Kagawa before hammering the ball across the six-yard area, with Gareth McAuley sticking out a leg and deflecting the ball past his own goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 West Brom! Gareth McAuley (og)!

Ben Foulkes says: I think it will be 3-1 today, with goals from Hernandez, Young and van persie coming off the bench with brunt to score for west brom.

The delivery is a really decent one that picks out Nemanja Vidic, but he can't get the proper direction on his header and sends the ball over.

United finally hold the ball for a sustained period of time and put together some slick passing, with Antonio Valencia eventually winning a corner.

Albion attack again through Graham Dorrans, but his 25-yard shot doesn't trouble David de Gea in the United goal.

Shane Long shows a turn of pace to burst through the middle of the field before looking to cut in between the two centre-backs, but Nemanja Vidic just gets a vital toe in.

It's the Baggies who create the first chance, although 'chance' might be a bit kind, given the face Liam Ridgewell simply lofted a deep cross well over the crossbar and out.

And we're up and running!

So, after a very late pitch inspection, the Old Trafford playing field was given the go-ahead, and the players are led out onto the pitch by referee Jon Moss. It's sure to be stodgy in places, but hopefully the 22 men out there will quickly adapt and treat us to what we all came here for: Goals!

Patrice Evra has scored more goals than any other defender this season, and he's 33/1 to open the scoring against West Brom, or 12/1 to score anytime. United's knack for falling behind continues almost every week, and you can back West Brom to be leading at the break but the hosts to win the match at 22/1 with Sky Bet.

And for the opposition, Chris writes in: As a big baggies fan im very concerned at our weakened defence & midfield this afternoon, our strength in depth is not good & i fear we may take a beating at old trafford, especially if we concede early. fingers crossed.

Scottie B says: I'm going for a 3-0 victory today for united, with welbeck and young both scoring and, van persie to come on and get the third.Think Norwich will draw with city so we can extend our lead at the top to 9 points.

Chris Walters emails in: I was fairly optimistic when first seeing the (Man United) team sheet. That was tempered by the fact that Kagawa is back from injury, so will not be in form, meaning he will likely be subbed out, and replaced with either Giggs or Scholes. Once either of them comes on I'm turning the game off.

West Brom, meanwhile, hand 19-year-old George Thorne only his second start for the club, having returned from loan at Peterborough this week. Otherwise, Jonas Olsson (groin), Youssouf Mulumbu and Goran Popov (both hamstring) all miss out through injury after limping off last time out.

So, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson opts to start Robin van Persie on the bench, with Danny Welbeck getting the nod up front today in what looks like a 4-5-1 formation. The big news in the first XI is the return of Shinji Kagawa, who gets his first start since suffering a knee injury in October.

Man Utd: De Gea, Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Carrick, Cleverley, Valencia, Kagawa, Young, Welbeck Subs: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Giggs, Hernandez, van Persie, Scholes, Buttner

West Brom: Foster, Jones, McAuley, Tamas, Ridgewell, Thorne, Brunt, Rosenberg, Dorrans, Odemwingie, Long Subs: Myhill, Morrison, El Ghanassy, Jara Reyes, Lukaku, Dawson, Fortune

As promised, the teams...

I've just been handed the team-sheets and we'll get into those momentarily, but why not first drop me a line at ryan.gordon@teamtalkmedia.com and let me know what you think about today's clash, or anything football-related for that matter.

There's plenty at stake then today, but why not make it a little bit more interesting by popping over to our friends at Sky Bet, who have Manchester United at 7/2 for the points today, while West Brom are the underdogs at 9/1. Good luck!

However, it will be anything but a walk-through for Sir Alex Ferguson's men today, and to write off West Brom this season would be a huge mistake. The Baggies currently sit level on points with fifth-placed Everton, who are ahead in the standings on goal-difference. Steve Clarke's men also most recently saw off the challenge of QPR on Wednesday, making it back-to-back wins for Albion, while they are undefeated in their last three, having drawn with West Ham midway through December.

It was a crazy round of fixtures on Boxing Day, with United's clash against Newcastle at the Theatre of Dreams stealing the headlines after the hosts thrice came from behind to eventually see off the Magpies 4-3. City, meanwhile, slumped to defeat against Sunderland to slip well and truly off the pace heading into the New Year.

They say it's lonely at the top, but I don't think you'll find a single Red Devils fan who minds that one bit. Seven points is the gap between the Premier League leaders and second-placed Manchester City, and it might be even more than that come full-time as Manchester United host West Brom at Old Trafford. I'm Ryan Gordon and I'll be taking you through all the action, so sit back, relax, and get ready for the fun.

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