Premier League: Manchester United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion
WBA: Jonas Olsson (63)
Manchester United were beaten 1-0 by West Brom, despite dominating the game, and a top-four finish in the Barclays Premier League remains in the balance.
Chris Brunt's free-kick deflected off Jonas Olsson to stun Old Trafford and Robin van Persie passed up a golden opportunity to equalise when his penalty was saved by Boaz Myhill, and the keeper was magnificent throughout.
A sedate opening period, which saw the Reds fail to muster a shot in the first 10 minutes, included an effort by the returning Darren Fletcher that flew over the bar. For all the hosts' possession, Joleon Lescott then headed straight at David De Gea after wrestling Antonio Valencia to the deck from a corner.
Van Persie, back in the starting XI after injury, spun to force an overly dramatic save out of Myhill but Ashley Young could not capitalise on the rebound, seeing his drive deflect off target via Craig Dawson. Myhill gathered another drive by van Persie safely enough and De Gea's stop from Youssuf Mulumbu's header was equally routine.
United's best effort of the first half came when Young picked out van Persie but his instant left-footed shot whistled wide of Myhill's right-hand post. Olsson blocked another van Persie attempt at source and, although a Valencia cross-shot thudded off Myhill, with Ander Herrera spectacularly firing the loose ball into the East Stand, there was precious little for the crowd to get excited about.
The fans did pay their respects to Rio Ferdinand's family on a number of occasions, following the sad death of the former defender's wife Rebecca, and saw more pressure applied after the interval but with no reward. Wayne Rooney's long-ranger was straight at Myhill and a Blind effort struck Marouane Fellaini in an offside position. Although Craig Gardner fired off target, it was all United with van Persie, who dropped deeper, and Herrera next to try their luck.
However, completely against the run of play, Fletcher's breakaway was ended by Paddy McNair's foul and the Northern Irishman was booked. That was not the end of the punishment as Brunt blasted the free-kick off Olsson in the wall and past a wrong-footed and helpless De Gea for the opening goal.
The Reds responded and were denied what looked a clear penalty when Juan Mata's cross struck Lescott on the hand. But a spot-kick was awarded when Valencia's cross struck Saido Berahino's elbow, but van Persie's shot was brilliantly saved by Myhill. Van Persie had another go from a free-kick soon afterwards but the keeper again won the duel and Mata's follow-up was cleared off the line.
McNair then squandered a glorious chance with a free header but, as time started to run out, so the openings dried up. Substitute Angel Di Maria couldn't deliver on a few occasions from the left flank, and that was indicative of a frustrating afternoon. Van Persie was unlucky in the final minute of normal time when his drive from the edge of the box forced another spectacular save out of Myhill.
The keeper saved his best for last, though, making a wonderful tip-over to deny Di Maria's vicious strike as there proved no way through. A third successive defeat and a third match without a goal for United leaves some concern over that Champions League spot.
United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, McNair (Falcao 83), Blind (Di Maria 64), Mata, Rooney, Herrera, Young, Fellaini, van Persie.
Subs not used: Valdes, Blackett, Jones, Pereira, Januzaj.
West Brom: Myhill, Dawson, Olsson, Lescott, McAuley, Yacob, Fletcher, Gardner (Wisdom 89), Mulumbu (Baird 76), Brunt, Berahino (Ideye 80).
Subs not used: Rose, McManaman, Sessegnon, Anichebe.