The pessimists who were predicting we were ‘doomed’ after a poor start to the season have been left eating humble pie after our 2-1 win at Old Trafford. A result which is one of the best – if not THE best we have achieved in recent years.
Steve Clarke named a bold attacking line-up against a Manchester United side missing a couple of key players ahead of a big Champions League tie on Tuesday. But the performance and result that followed was almost unbelievable.
With Morgan Amalfitano and Stephane Sessegnon causing the United back four constant problems with their excellent link-up play, and Victor Anichebe playing through the pain barrier for much of the second half to hold the ball up to great effect, we always seemed capable of scoring against a side who have really struggled at the start of this season.
Having seen extended highlights of the game after being unable to attend, there were several outstanding individual displays.
However, the day most definitely belonged to academy graduate Saido Berahino.
He has made a superb start to the season – for club and country – scoring five goals in all competitions for Albion and scoring in both England U21 internationals since the start of the campaign.
He was the match-winner at Old Trafford, sending a powerful left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area past David De Gea and into the bottom corner after an excellent team move.
Amalfitano’s goal which had earlier given us the lead wasn’t bad either, as he ran with the ball from inside his own half, nutmegged Rio Ferdinand and waited for De Gea to go to ground before nonchalantly lifting the ball over the goalkeeper from close range.
This game came just three days after we crashed out of the Capital One Cup at the third round stage for the third year in succession following an unfortunate penalty shoot-out defeat to Arsenal at The Hawthorns.
A few people have suggested that Clarke rested too many players for what was a winnable tie due to the amount of changes Arsene Wenger made to his side, with his decision to change the entire back four leading to a great deal of criticism.
However, we had enough chances to win the game over the course of the 90 minutes and extra-time. Can Clarke really be blamed for experienced players missing chances they would normally have converted?
Overall, few can complain about the last few days from an Albion perspective, though. I think every Baggies fan would have taken an unfortunate defeat in the cup, but following that up with our first win at Old Trafford since 1978.
Clarke seems to have finally found the right balance in our side, and I don’t think it is any coincidence that he has only done this since the busy deadline day which saw the arrival of Amalfitano, Sessegnon and Anichebe.
He rightly came under scrutiny from a number of supporters at the start of the season, with us looking predictable in possession and almost incapable of scoring.
It would be good, however, if those who were so quick to criticise at the start of the season give him the credit he deserves for the way he set us up at United.
When Scott Sinclair went off injured early on, he could have bought on Graham Dorrans to help make us a bit more solid defensively. He showed his intentions by bringing on Berahino instead, a move which could quite easily have backfired but ultimately ended up winning us the game.
Next up for Albion is another home game against Arsenal, this time in the Premier League on Sunday.
They have started the season very well and will probably provide us with our toughest test so far, but we have absolutely nothing to fear.
In the same way that we went to United to attack rather than sit back and try and keep it at 0-0 for as long as possible, we need to adopt an attacking approach against Arsenal. It might be that their key players are on form and put us to the sword, but the vast majority of supporters can accept defeats if they know that their side has given it a real go.
After our result Saturday though, we can head into the game with confidence and the knowledge that we are capable of shocking some of the better sides in the Premier League if we are on form.
Can Albion continue their good form against Arsenal? Have your say here at Baggies Banter.