Manchester United vs Crystal Palace: Match Analysis

Photo Credit: The Daily Mirror

After the disappointing draw at Molineux it was imperative that United got back to winning ways at home to a team that hadn’t beaten them for 28 years. Perhaps surprisingly Solskjaer named an unchanged line-up, especially when you consider Lingard’s non-performance against Wolves, along with the host of young attacking players chomping at the bit for a slice of first-team action.

Their was heightened focus on Paul Pogba after the horrific abuse aimed at him on social media so it was great to hear the reception from the Old Trafford faithful when his name was read out. Wan-Bissaka would also be under scrutiny after his £50 million move from the Eagles this summer.

When you look at Palace’s attacking options, outside of Zaha it’s a veritable who’s who of underwhelming, non-prolific strikers, so to concede two goals to them at home is bordering on criminal.

United started really well, keeping possession and probing a nervy looking Palace back-line. The first real chance came after 8 minutes when Luke shaw missed with a snapshot after Rashford’s lofted free-kick was only half cleared. For the most part Crystal Palace defended deep but well, with Van Aarnholt in particular proving to be a thorn in Dan James’ side on more than one occasion. With a possession stat of 76% after a quarter of the game had gone, it looked like only a matter of time before United would break the deadlock. The one note of concern was the lack of clear-cut chances.

When the opening goal did come, Old Trafford was stunned as it was completely against the run of play. Guaita launched a speculative punt downfield towards Schlupp who was able to beat Lindelof to the ball far too easily. Schlupp’s header landed in the path of Jordan Ayew who ran unopposed into the box and coolly slotted the ball home under the onrushing De Gea. One nil Palace. 

In the aftermath of the goal Luke Shaw limped off with a pulled hamstring, which he’d had treatment for a few minutes earlier. Why he chose to try to play on is anyone’s guess, as it may well have been a contributing factor in United’s poor defensive shape in the build up into the goal and he may have done more damage which will likely take longer to heal.

After going in front Palace visibly grew in confidence and began to put together some phases of play of their own. Cahill was booked for bringing down Martial on 40 minutes with a challenge that another referee may well have considered a red card, as the Frenchman would have been clean through on goal. The resulting free-kick was sent over the bar by Pogba. The first half petered out with Solskjaer looking increasingly frustrated on the touchline.

Half time, Manchester United 0 – Crystal Palace 1

The pattern of the second half was almost identical to the first, with United having most of the possession but unable to really test Guaita’s goal. On 54 minutes Martial received the ball from Wan-Bissaka with his back to goal and turned his man, who clumsily pulled him down in the penalty box. The referee saw nothing wrong, and worryingly neither did VAR. That was the very definition of clear and obvious.

United did get a penalty shortly afterwards, which Rashford smashed against the post and it began to feel like one of those days.

With frustration building in the stands, Pogba instigated a lovely phase of one touch passing which Daniel James finished by curling deftly into the top corner. 1 – 1 and United were back in the game. For a while it looked like United would go on to score the winner, however Patrick van Aanholt capped his man of the match performance with an injury time winner, beating De Gea at his near post to take all three points back to Selhurst Park.

But for bad luck and questionable officiating this was a match that on another day United would have won comfortably. Despite this, questions have to be asked about Solskjaer’s tactics and about his use of substitutes. Pogba lost the ball high up the field before Palace scored the winner and there was nobody in midfield to cover.

It’s still early days, yet it already feels like this season has gotten away from us. In these days of instant gratification and immediate satisfaction you have to wonder how many more games we can afford to lose before the natives get restless and start to publicly question the manager?

Author: TUD Author