West Brom V Man Utd at The Hawthorns : Match Preview

06 March 2016 11:12
West Brom V Man Utd - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Tony Pulis focused on safety before breaking records ahead of Man United game

Tony Pulis will train his sights on surpassing West Brom's record Barclays Premier League total this season, but only after they have reached the 40-point mark.

The Baggies have accrued seven points from their last three league games and welcome Manchester United to The Hawthorns on Sunday hoping to extend their unbeaten home streak in the calendar year.

A victory over Louis van Gaal's side would take them to 39 points, one shy of the haul thought to guarantee safety in most campaigns, with nine more games then remaining before the season is over.

That would give Pulis' men ample time to better the 49 points Steve Clarke's side returned in the 2012-13 season - though such a total will remain at the back of the current manager's mind while survival still needs to be achieved.

"My aim always is to get to 40 points," Pulis said. "If we can get to 40 points in the next couple of games then we'll be pushing on to see if we can get more points than the club has achieved before.

"To look above the most important target, the one that you set at the beginning of the season, I don't think is right. Let's get there first and assess it and if we can get to 40 points with quite a few games left let's see if we can get that (record total)."

West Brom's recent good form means Pulis can afford to entertain the possibility of a record-breaking season, even if he has seen his style of play questioned in some quarters during difficult spells.

United manager Van Gaal, whose own team have hit a purple patch of late, can relate to such criticism himself and Pulis accepts that all comes with the territory.

"I think you're going to get criticism whichever way you cook it today," he added.

"It's style of football, not scoring goals, conceding goals - if you're not winning enough games then people are going to find a way for why you're not doing it and criticise that reason.

"You have to accept that. You'll get no complaints from me."

Pulis' squad for Sunday will not include former United defender Jonny Evans, who is injured along with Chris Brunt, Callum McManaman and James Morrison.

Darren Fletcher's consistent, impressive West Brom performances have made Van Gaal happy rather than regretful.

It is just over a year since the 32-year-old midfielder ended his long association with United to start a new challenge at the Hawthorns.

Fletcher made 342 appearances after joining the Reds as a trainee in 2000 but moved on last February after failing to become a regular under Van Gaal - a route to the West Midlands followed by fellow academy graduate Jonny Evans in the summer.

Both have swiftly settled into life at the Hawthorns at a time when their former club could have done with their experience, nous and quality.

United have been forced to blood youngsters to patch up their injury-hit side, but Van Gaal appears happy with the situation that his team and former players find themselves in.

"Jonny is a big loss for every team," Van Gaal told MUTV. "I'm very sorry that he cannot play (on Sunday due to a hamstring injury).

"I'd like to see him again and I'll also see my ex-captain Darren Fletcher.

"I'm happy that Darren is playing so often, because that was our aim also when we spoke about his departure.

"It's not always easy to say things to the players about it being better for them to go, but when you see players like Jonny and Darren playing so regularly, it's good for players. I'm very happy for them."

Fletcher's exit and a string of injuries have seen the average age of United's starting line-up brought down dramatically.

Juan Mata was the Reds' oldest player against Watford on Wednesday and the 27-year-old stand-in captain led by example, with his late free-kick securing a fourth straight victory.

"It was not difficult," Van Gaal said of giving the Spaniard the armband in the 1-0 win.

"I have an elder group of players with whom I'm talking about aspects of things - training sessions, meetings or how we have to approach players and so on.

"Juan is a member of that group with the three captains - (Wayne) Rooney, (Michael) Carrick and (Chris) Smalling - and (Bastian) Schweinsteiger as well, so it was an easy choice for me."

Carrick is likely to return against West Brom having been rested in midweek, while Van Gaal is hoping to have Smalling back from a shoulder complaint.

Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini may also be involved in the squad to face the Baggies.

Source: PAR