West Brom have completed the signing of Egypt international defender Ahmed Hegazi on a permanent deal.
The 26-year-old has been on loan from Al Ahly, joining Albion in July, and the option has been taken to prolong his stay at The Hawthorns.
An undisclosed fee has been agreed between the two clubs and Hegazi has signed a contract until the summer of 2022.
Hegazi was brought to the club by former boss Tony Pulis but new manager Alan Pardew has welcomed the decision to keep the player.
He told the club’s official website: “This is great news for the club. Ahmed has been absolutely terrific for me since I arrived and I am sure there is even more to come from him in the future.
“He is one of the players we can build around on the road ahead. He has a big role to play and it is good for the player and the club to remove any doubts and make the transfer permanent.
“I’m sure it is something the supporters will also welcome.”
“I am very happy with the club and very happy to be part of this group of players,” he said.
“I know the results are not what we would want at the moment. But there is great spirit here and I am sure that we will turn the results in our favour before long.”
Hegazi marked his West Brom debut by scoring the only goal in a home victory over Bournemouth on the opening day of the season and has gone on to make 19 appearances for the club.
Coutinho handed in a transfer request in August after Barcelona had a bid for the Brazilian rejected, but the Reds turned down a further two offers, with owners Fenway Sports Group publicly stating he was not for sale.
The 25-year-old missed the start of the season with a back problem, but has been outstanding since his return and it was his superb strike that set Liverpool on their way at the Vitality Stadium.
Interviewed on Sky Sports alongside team-mate Oxlade-Chamberlain post-match, Coutinho was asked whether he wanted to stay at Liverpool until the end of the season.
“I always say the same thing – I try to enjoy the moment,” Coutinho said. “I like to play football and every time when I go on the pitch I try my best.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain then interrupted, adding: “He’s a Liverpool player right now and he’s doing really well for us.
“He’s been the most professional person I’ve seen all season; he’s been top quality from the start and every time he gives his all for the club.
“That’s the most important thing right now. It’s not fair to ask those kind of questions, I don’t think, but he gives us his all every game and that’s all you can ask of him.”
“It was a nice goal but for me the most important thing is Liverpool getting better and winning games.”
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 17, 2017
It was far from a vintage United performance as they had to hold on at the end to secure all three points, but a win is a win, and this Manager Microscope dissects the tactics that saw United get all three points.
Jose Mourinho wore a scowl throughout and rarely got up from his seat, but he said he was happy with his team’s performance and the result. Here’s an analysis of how the Portuguese fared.
BASIC RED DEVILS STATS
Shots – 7
Shots on target – 3
Pass success – 82%
Aerial duel success – 65%
Dribbles won – 8
Tackles – 11
Possession – 57%
STARTING FORMATION [4-2-3-1]
Despite success with three at the back last month, Mourinho has reverted to his usual 4-2-3-1 in recent fixtures and stuck with that again, allowing him to field four attacking players against what he no doubt expected to be a compact and defensive West Brom side.
Marcus Rashford came in for Anthony Martial in the only change from United’s mid-week win over Bournemouth, starting alongside Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata behind Romelu Lukaku, while Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic continued in midfield as Paul Pogba served the last game of his suspension. Phil Jones started for a second straight game after returning from injury, alongside Chris Smalling, while Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young took up the full-back positions.
TACTICAL TURNING POINTS
Patient attacking play
United built slowly but with thought, as they had to do against a West Brom side set-up to contain first. Mata saw a lot of the ball and popped up everywhere, despite starting on the right wing, and Lingard was equally mobile in his No. 10 position.
The movement between those two created United’s second goal, but it was Rashford’s play hugging the left touchline that opened the scoring. His perfect cross left Lukaku with little to do to head the ball in and score for the second straight game – signs that the striker’s form is returning.
Lingard’s goal to put United 2-0 up was fortunate in that his seemingly innocuous shot took a huge deflection, but credit to Mata’s movement to emerge on the left wing, dribble inwards and at the heart of the defence, and then lay the ball off to Lingard to shoot.
Foot off the gas
Sitting on a two-goal lead, United were content to control the game rather than kill it off completely, although they did come close to scoring a third on occasion. The Baggies also made some tactical tweaks to come out of half-time looking a more dangerous side.
However, United’s inability to take the game to West Brom was frustrating. Perhaps the experience of last month’s 4-2 win over Watford, when they took a 3-0 lead but saw it slip to 3-2, influenced the choice to hold firm rather than putting their foot to the throat, but the decision to shut up shop, more or less, was disappointing – and nearly came back to haunt them.
Withstand late barrage
The inability or unwillingness to push on nearly cost United, as West Brom scored in the 77th minute to set up a nervy finish. From that point, it was all the home side, as United’s back line had to withstand a barrage. In fairness, other than one moment when David de Gea flapped at a corner, only to gratefully see it bounce back into his arms, West Brom didn’t have a clear-cut chance to equalise.
Jones and Smalling took responsibility in dealing with the crosses, with ample help from Nemanja Matic – who was partially at fault for West Brom’s goal, caught ball-watching as a corner went just inches over his head before ricocheting back into the goalmouth. The midfielder made up for it over the next fifteen minutes, while Herrera did well to cut out any attacks that came through the middle, and United hung on for victory.
Mourinho set United up to create and take chances, and saw his side do just that in the first-half. They built a platform for a big win by going into half-time with a 2-0 lead.
But whether he instructed his charges to sit back in the second period, or West Brom just found another gear, United rarely threatened to extend that lead and put the game beyond doubt. They defended well when they were put under pressure as their hosts chased an equaliser, but they shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place.
In the end, however, three points, away from home – and against a team that was coming off of holding Liverpool to a 0-0 draw – is a result Mourinho will take any day, regardless of whatever criticism he may face.
Jose Mourinho, the nasty dinosaur taking football back to the dark ages, currently has his team 10 points ahead of the innovate, swashbuckling Mauricio Pochettino’s…
— Andy (@andykeating) December 17, 2017
José Mourinho is often accused of not improving players but I think he’s worked wonders with Jesse Lingard
— Ryan Baldi (@RyanBaldiFW) December 17, 2017
2-0 up, #mufc fans loving it, and now singing the “…park the bus, Man United…playing football the Mourinho way” song.
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) December 17, 2017