United need to improve fast after lucky break

Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes scores their first goal from the penalty spot on Nov 21, 2020.
Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes scores their first goal from the penalty spot on Nov 21, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Bruno Fernandes believes Manchester United have the quality to do "much better", after his twice-taken penalty saw off lowly West Bromwich Albion 1-0 to end a run of six games without a Premier League win at Old Trafford.

The Portugal midfielder got a second chance, after Sam Johnstone had saved his first spot kick but came off his line in doing so.

United also got a break at the other end moments earlier when a penalty given for a foul by Fernandes on Conor Gallagher was overturned after a video assistant referee review.

"First, it was very important to win the game, not because it's the first win at Old Trafford but because we need the points," the 26-year-old told BT Sport. "We can do much better, we have the qualities to do much better."

Just as in United's Champions League win at Paris Saint-Germain last month, he made the most of his reprieve of seeing his first spot kick saved.

"Okay, I scored the second one but I need to score the first one," added Fernandes, who has netted 14 league goals since arriving in January, half of them coming from the spot.

Victory moves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men up to ninth before yesterday's games and within seven points of early pacesetters Tottenham with a game in hand.

The Baggies have scored just once in their last six games but Slaven Bilic was left fuming at the game-changing decision not to award his side a penalty early in the second half. Fernandes looked to have caught Gallagher inside the area when referee David Coote pointed to the spot, only to overturn the call after reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor.

"Throughout the whole second half, I felt like small West Brom. All those crucial decisions went against us," said the Croat. "The penalty against Gallagher is a clear penalty.

"The other penalty, with the new rules, it's handball. But before the handball, it was a clear foul on Gallagher. Instead of 1-0 for us it is 1-0 for them. It's a huge difference."

Even Solskjaer admitted that he thought the spot-kick decision should have stood.

Moments later, Gallagher was denied again, this time by the legs of David de Gea with the biggest chance of the game to that point.

Yet, it was United who were given the chance to win from the spot when Juan Mata's cross struck the arm of Darnell Furlong and this time Coote's decision to award a penalty was not overturned.

Fernandes smashed home the penalty second time round but United still had to ride their luck to hold out for the three points, with Callum Robinson inches away from an equaliser after his dipping long-range shot came back off the crossbar.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2020, with the headline 'United need to improve fast after lucky break'. Print Edition | Subscribe