Sir Alex Ferguson remained upbeat after Manchester United were beaten 3-2 at home by Athletic Bilbao on Thursday night, but the side need to return to form and victory when they face West Brom on Sunday. With Manchester City two points ahead of the Red Devils, a win against the Baggies at Old Trafford is a necessity.

United were second best against Bilbao in the Europa League, with Ferguson admitting that the showing, especially at the back, was not good enough. The club’s European campaign hangs in the balance, and a top performance at San Mames next week will be necessary to salvage the tie against the Spaniards.

However, more importantly, the Premier League campaign is entering a pivotal stage and after wins over Norwich and Tottenham, United need to keep their domestic ball rolling. With eleven games left in the league, the race to be champions is set to go down to the wire. City currently hold the advantage, but this weekend may well shift the balance of power.

City may well have won their last four games in the league, but they face a tough test this weekend. After an unexpected 1-0 defeat at the hands of Sporting Lisbon on Thursday and travel across to Portugal, Roberto Mancini’s men have to face a Swansea side that have exceeded expectations this term. The Welsh team have been especially dangerous at the Liberty Stadium this season, having beat Arsenal and drawn with Chelsea and Tottenham at home; City could drop points in this fixture if they are not at their best.

Regardless of City’s result, United need to get maximum points to keep pressure on their arch enemies. However, with less than convincing performances of late, victory is not assured against a rejuvenated West Brom team. Roy Hodgson has turned the Hawthorns club’s fortunes around over the last month, to the point that he is now being considered in the media as a potential candidate for the vacant England manager post.

West Brom have won their last three games in the league, scoring ten goals in the process. A 1-0 win over Chelsea in their last outing saw the end of Andre Villas Boas, and dealt a blow to the Blues’ season. In particular, Peter Odemwingie has recovered form and fitness and will pose a threat to a under pressure United backline; the Nigeria international has scored five goals in the three-match run and is being linked with a move to Arsenal in the summer.

All things considered, United should pick up three points against the Baggies on Sunday if they play to anywhere near their best. Rio Ferdinand will more than likely be reinstated to the back four, and the veteran needs to step up and command his fellow defenders. If Sir Alex’s men can solve their issues at the back, they may well be top of the league at the end of the weekend.

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