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Manchester United returned to winning ways as they claimed a 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.
Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney and substitute Danny Welbeck found the net to ensure Pepe Mel's wait for a first win as head coach of the Baggies was extended to seven matches. The victory lifted United above Everton into sixth in the Barclays Premier League and left West Brom in the relegation mire.
West Brom began the game on the front foot, but United had menace on the counter-attack, their much-vaunted front four of Juan Mata, Adnan Januzaj, Rooney and Robin Van Persie showing more cohesion than in previous matches. But it was Chris Brunt who almost put the visitors ahead after 16 minutes. The West Brom captain diverted Marouane Fellaini's 16th-minute header towards his own goal before Youssouff Mulumbu came to his rescue by clearing off the line.
The hosts had former United goalkeeper Ben Foster to thank for keeping them level just before the half-hour when he kept out Rafael Da Silva's powerful back-post header. There was nothing Foster could do about the 33rd-minute opener, however, as Jones glanced Van Persie's free-kick past the goalkeeper from eight yards for his first Barclays Premier League goal of the season.
West Brom could have drawn level five minutes later when Claudio Yacob nodded over from three yards, before Victor Anichebe outmuscled Jones with his back to goal, only to drag wide from 12 yards.
Mel's side began the second period as they started the first, and created a clear opening after 52 minutes but Zoltan Gera shot straight at David de Gea after a neat one-two with Anichebe. United were struggling to contain Anichebe's physicality, and the former Everton forward almost created the equaliser when he fired across goal after again shrugging off Jones, but Rafael was on hand to clear before Brunt could tap in to an open goal.
Despite West Brom's promising start after the interval, they were undone by a moment of quality from the visitors as Rooney doubled their advantage after 65 minutes. Slick interplay between Rooney, Mata and Rafael ended with the Brazil defender finding the unmarked England striker with a pinpoint cross, and he made no mistake with a simple back-post header.
Substitute Welbeck, who was on for Van Persie, made sure of the win seven minutes from time when he latched on to Rooney's perfectly weighted through-ball and produced a smart finish.
West Brom head coach Pepe Mel: “We had bad luck with the three changes through three injuries. We weren’t able to do anything else despite the fact the game required it. Due to the changes we couldn’t do anything else.
“Pressure is all part of the profession. I hope the players respond well to playing under pressure.
“The trainer certainly does react well to being under pressure because I’m used to it. I’m still confident I can keep West Brom up; the next four matches are very important for us. They are different matches and we need 11 professionals with a good mentality.”
Manchester United manager David Moyes: “Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney were excellent. Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj too, but we also needed a good defensive performance as well so, all round, I'm pleased.
"The pitch was very lively, it was drying out a little bit and it wasn't that easy to pass the ball, but we looked much more potent going forward and looked more likely to score than we have in other games. I made the point about us trying to attack more and have better play going forward and we did that.
" Smalling and Jones played really well. We needed to make sure Phil's ready to play and [for the first goal] it was a really good header by Phil after Rafael did good work down the right and got the free-kick. Robin's delivery was excellent and, thankfully, Phil got across his defender and scored.”
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