It was not an ideal start for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side as Manchester United lost their opening Premier League fixture against Crystal Palace yesterday. The Red Devils were not expected to deliver such an atrocious performance considering the fact that they had won all their opening league fixtures in the last 5 seasons.
It was a well-deserved victory for Roy Hodgson’s side as he came up with a well-organised plan to nullify the side who were unbeaten in their last 14 Premier League games.
Crystal Palace began their game in a very positive manner, and it paid off in the 7th minute as Andros Townsend gave them an early lead by scoring from Jeffrey Schlupp’s cross. The Eagles doubled their lead in the 74th minute when Wilfred Zaha scored the penalty, which was retaken because David De Gea stepped off the line in the first penalty as he saved it. United’s debutant, Donny van de Beek, scored his maiden goal as he was brought on in place of Paul Pogba which gave his team a little hope to make a comeback. However, things still didn’t improve for United as Zaha scored his second goal in the 85th minute to make it 3-1, which was the final result of the game.
Solskjaer, as usual, went with the 4-2-3-1 formation, with Timothy Fosu Mensah featuring as the right-back instead of Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Nemanja Matic was not involved either, being replaced by Scott McTominay as Paul Pogba’s partner in a pivot. Mason Greenwood was left out of the starting XI too, as Daniel James started as a right-winger instead. Just like the last season post lockdown, Diogo Dalot was not involved, being left out of the bench as well.
Hodgson, on the other hand, played the 4-4-2 formation, making one change following their win against Southampton in Palace’s opening fixture. Scott Dann was replaced by Mamadou Sakho as the centre-back. Wilfred Zaha and Jordan Ayew continued to start in a front 2.
United’s Poor Defending
United’s defence was constantly getting punished by Palace. Even the first goal they conceded could’ve been avoided. Victor Lindelof should have stopped Jeffrey Schlupp and prevented him from crossing the ball, and Luke Shaw should have made an extra effort to mark Andros Townsend who scored the goal to give The Eagles an early lead.
Palace were also being given a lot space in wide areas. United should’ve done better to press them in wide areas as they weren’t creating enough chances from the midfield.
To add to that, Palace were also giving United a lot of trouble on the break, with Wilfred Zaha and Jordan Ayew causing problems for the likes of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire by using their pace.
A Townsend Masterclass
Andros Townsend was on top of his game yesterday. Besides scoring a goal for Palace, the Englishman continued to cause a lot of trouble on the right flank. Having a strong left foot, Townsend was cutting inside very often and never hesitated to take the shot. He was, undeniably, one of the best players on the pitch.
United’s Predictable Attacking Pattern
United, in spite of having more possession than Palace, failed to create a lot of goal-scoring opportunities. This was mainly because of their predictable style of play. Too much reliance on individual brilliance, lack of quality in wide areas and attacking fullbacks made Palace aware of their system and made them nullify United very easily.
United’s lack of quality on the right side of the pitch also made their strategy too one-dimensional. Timothy Fosu Mensah is not an ideal attacking fullback and Daniel James is not good enough to play on the right. It’s a no brainer that United’s weaknesses got massively exposed yesterday and this might turn out to be a huge problem for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for the rest of the season.
van de Beek’s Debut: The Only Positive
Another important talking point of the yesterday’s match is Donny van de Beek’s impressive debut. The Dutch international was signed by United from Ajax for approximately £35 million.
van de Beek was among the substitutes yesterday and he was brought on the pitch in the 67th minute, replacing Paul Pogba. He scored the only goal for the Red Devils and his overall game was good as well. He linked up well with the other midfielders to create a couple of chances. He also pushed himself inside the box a couple of times, which is one of the things he is known for.
Despite scoring and impressing everyone on his debut, van de Beek still wasn’t happy with the result as he expressed his thoughts in an interview with MUTV:
”My first day for the club and a day you want to win, it doesn’t matter how you win, and I’m really disappointed that we lose 3-1 at home. It’s really bad. Last week in training we did really well. We did really good, so my feeling was very positive, but yeah, today we played too slowly, we were too long with the ball, and I think against an opponent like Crystal Palace you need to speed up the game to create something. That was not good enough.”Donny van de Beek
Yesterday’s result showed that United are still lacking in quality and need to do a better business in the transfer window with only a couple of weeks left for it to close now.
According to a reliable journalist Fabrizio Romano, United are still after a left-back and a winger. This season could still go much better than the last season if United manage to bag a couple of more signings to bolster their squad.
But as it stands, United are in a massive trouble, considering the fact that they’re finding it difficult to beat a team like Crystal Palace at home. At this rate, one could only imagine what a tough time they would face in the Champions League where they’re up against the European elites.
This could either be another season to forget for the Red Devils or a season in which they make loads of progress. It’s up to Ed Woodward and the Glazers whether they want to show some ambition or waste yet another season with mediocrity.