Steve Clarke allowed himself a rare smile on a day when his fast emerging West Bromwich Albion team completely outplayed Champions Manchester United in a 2 – 1 victory at the Theatre of Dreams.
The Baggies manager was full of praise for his team after goals by Morgan Amalfitano and Saido Berahino each side of a Wayne Rooney free-kick saw West Brom win at Old Trafford for the first time in 35 years.
The match started with United in control fashioning some half chances on the right hand side courtesy of crosses by Nani. Rooney headed over and Anderson hit the bar but the home side could not get the breakthrough.
An injury to Baggies winger Scott Sinclair on 13 minutes saw England Under 21 striker Berahino sent on in a bold move by Albion manager Clarke which proved to be a masterstroke. In fact the Baggies could so easily of taken the lead when a cross from the left by Amalfitano was headed narrowly wide by the young substitute.
The second half picked up where the first one left off with both teams attacking and weaving together chances but it was the team in dark blue and white stripes who dealt the first blow. On 54 minutes. the thorn in the side, Amalfitano picked up the ball on the right and cut inside before cheekily nutmegging Rio Ferdinand and then waiting for David De Gea to commit before chipping the ball into the net to stun the Home crowd and send the travelling Baggies fans delirious.
United manager David Moyes immediately told substitute Robin Van Persie to prepare for his entrance and two minutes later as both watched from the touchline, Rooney fired a free-kick from the left over the wall and into the right hand corner of the net.
With that goal the Red Devils appeared to finally take control of the game and looked as if they would go on to win but West Brom’s tactic of hitting their opponents on the counter attack worked a treat for Steve Clarke's men. The sheer power of Victor Anichebe, the finesse and delicacy of Amalfitano supported by the hard work of Stephane Sessegnon knitted together to form the perfect recipe for danger. On the 67th minute the Midlanders again broke free on the right. Sessegnon crossed the ball to the edge of the box and Amalfitano intricately flicked the ball into the path of substitute Berahino who smashed the ball into the bottom right corner of the net to restore the Albion lead.
United pushed forward in search of an equaliser and thought they had got it when some great passing on the edge of the box between Rooney, Alexander Buttner and Nani created an easy tap in for Maroune Fellaini who looked to have opened his old Trafford scoring account but the offside flag denied him.
Frustration coursed through the veins of the 73,000 home fans and at the final whistle a chorus of boos made clear the fans’ verdict on the mediocre United performance.
After the game Moyes admitted that his team were poor and inferred he may have underestimated his opponents.
As for West Bromwich Albion, the only way is up at the moment after back to back victories this week and last week against Sunderland. Steve Clarke's new signings have transformed his team posing a deadly threat on the counter attack and also a composed performance at the back from defenders Jonas Olsson and Gareth McCauley was too much for the Reds. His transfer deadline signings have completely transformed the fortunes of his Albion team who move up to a comfortable mid-table position while the Champions languish in 12th place, their worst start since 1989.