What to say about Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon. Well to be honest it was a bit of a lacklustre performance against a hard working Crystal Palace team who had set out to defend their goal and try to catch United on the counter attack. They defended well and United really struggled to break them down until Juan Mata got the winning goal only four minutes after coming off the bench. Let’s be honest the Mata shot is one that you would expect any decent goalkeeper to save but I like many other United fans will take it and just move onto the next game. Hoping that we see a more confident performance from United against Arsenal after yet another International break.
So positives Manchester United can take from this game were very little, I feel the positives were that they managed to keep a clean sheet for the first time in 6 games. With the last clean sheet coming in the 4-0 victory over OPR. It was David De Gea 50th clean sheet for the club. Although Crystal Palace did have a few chances to score, I feel the defence as a whole looked pretty solid. For me Luke Shaw was our man of the match. He defended well and got up and down the left wing also providing an attacking element to the team with several good runs down the left wing. He came close to scoring his first goal for the club with a run from the half-way line and going past several Crystal Palace players before his shot was well saved by Speroni in the Palace goal. I feel Luke Shaw’s performances have been improving gradually with each game. After he received criticism about his fitness and early performances and a lot of the media criticism him for going out with friends while he was out injured, all that criticism has gone quiet now after he has responded with several good performances on the pitch.
Paddy McNair again showed all the potential he has in this game, again I don’t think he put a foot wrong and I really feel he should keep his place in the starting 11 even when the so called senior defenders return to full fitness if they ever do. He dealt with all the defensive work very well and came out of defence with ball several times and again looked very composed on the ball. He seems to be a level headed boy and it looks like nothing seems to faze him. Again in the defence Daley Blind and Michael Carrick both did well. Now Blind did start at centre-back and Carrick was just in front of the defence and these two players interchanged positions several times during the match. This was a very pleasing part of our game for me. The return of Michael Carrick I feel makes us more solid defensively, he will sit in front of the defence to give them that protection and he doesn’t panic when on the ball.
United had 63% of the possession in the game but a lot of that play was in the middle of the pitch. I feel the formation we played and some of the personnel didn’t help with our attacking in this game. I was asking myself why are we playing one up front in a home against a team such as Crystal Palace. Before the game I felt we should have gone back to diamond formation with two out and out strikers playing. I know that Van Gaal played with this formation to make us more solid defensively but I feel we should attacking teams such as Crystal Palace.
Several times in the first-half the balls were played into Van Persie that he could have run onto and instead he was looking to hold the ball up or looking to the lay the ball back to the midfield. I feel that James Wilson deserved to start in this game and I feel he showed in the 20 minutes he was on the why he deserves a chance in the starting 11. He showed that he is willing to run at and attack defenders, I feel if it was Wilson receiving them balls that Van Persie did in the first half he would have ran onto the ball and caused more of a threat to the Palace goal.
I feel if United had played the diamond formation in this game and brought Ander Herrera back into the team in place of Fellaini we would have been more a threat. With Di Maria and Herrera playing in the middle we would have been more dynamic going forward with the ball being moved forward quicker than it was. Now Di Maria in my mind is not an out and out winger because when teams know he’s going to be out wide for most of the match they can put at least two players on him. If he plays centrally he is able roam around the pitch more and find that space out wide every now and then. Now Adnan Januzaj, what’s his best position, is he a winger? Is he a central attacking player in the No.10 role?
He’s being given four games on the bounce now on the wing and in all honesty has disappointed in every one of those matches. When he gets the ball out wide and has several defenders round I feel he doesn’t know what to do. This just slows down our play. Ok there were several times when we could have countered Palace especially in the 2nd half when Januzaj was sprinting down the wing asking for the ball and it wasn’t played to him. Now I ask myself there must be a reason for this and maybe it’s because he hasn’t caused a threat when he’s had the ball on previous occasions. He was eventually substituted for the match winner Juan Mata.
Juan Mata came off the bench and got the winning goal only four minutes later. He also hit the post later in the game. Ok he got the winning goal in this game but I feel that people saying that he changed the game is slightly over the top. I don’t feel that Mata came on and changed the game. He came on to replace Januzaj and played out wide like he had been. The only thing he did slightly different from Januzaj was he drifted into centre positions slightly more and this is how he got the goal because we all know Mata is always willing to have a shot. Though to say someone changed the game I feel they have to take the game by the scruff of neck and change the way the game is being played. He didn’t do this and feel he still has a lot to do to convince Van Gaal he deserves a place in the starting 11.
So United go into the international break with three points, a clean sheet and another win at home after they really struggled at home last season. They really need to make Old Trafford into a place where teams fear coming again. I wouldn’t say they are there yet but the more games they can win at Old Trafford it will become that again.