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What We Learned: Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace – Barclays Premier League 2015/16

A marked improvement on Saturday afternoon, and a well-earned three points. It tailed off towards the end, but why overdo things with a big game coming up at Wembley? The march for the top four continues and here is what we learned whilst in stride.

It can be done

Quick passing, running in behind, beating men, balls into the box, more than one goal scored, 10 shots on target. All of these things have been heavily lacking throughout Louis van Gaal’s reign and been nothing more than an occasional treat intent upon building hopes up to knock them down again. Quite simply it was far, far better tonight. No, not completely dazzling and not enough to convince doubters van Gaal is the man for next season, but let’s just enjoy it while it’s fresh in the mind. Anthony Martial was unplayable at times, Antonio Valencia was absolutely flying down the right-wing and Marcus Rashford was a constant threat with his pace and intelligence. It could have been more than two with relative ease, but for some stunning saves from Speroni keeping United at bay. Sure the pace dropped in the latter stages, but it was bound to happen with Saturday in mind. There was certainly cause for (muted) optimism on the back of some of that mind.

Rooney shone

And he did, very much. Deployed deeper this evening and it suited him. He can drop deep as he likes and know when he collects there is an out ball to Rashford or Martial and he isn’t the main line of attack. He was extremely impressive tonight, and the rustiness that appeared Saturday seems to have been shaken off. All round a very level and experienced performance from the Captain, and something we all hope continues.

Herrera headache 

Quite simply he should play. But with Rooney impressing deeper, Schneiderlin needed for his defensive capabilities and Lingard performing well there is no space for him. It’s a concern, but also can be something of a blessing as he can change the game from the bench. He won’t be happy with a lesser role, but it’s a good sign a player of his ability is struggling to get minutes.

Conclusion

So as I’ve said, far from perfect but still very pleasing to see. I’m always very fearful of any modicum of optimism as so often I’ve been left heartbroken. But all of a sudden, top four is well within United’s reaches. Arsenal seem to be out doing themselves with a sensational collapse, and City can’t decide what they want to do. It leaves United just two points off third and absolutely in with a shout of it. Staggering considering how poor this season has been. Matteo Darmian deserves a mention for that storming goal that can only be described as an absolute peach. Much improvement, and much encouragement as Saturday approaches. With Everton defenceless and Rashford banging in goals and chances on the up (tonight anyway) we fans have every right to believe an FA Cup final could be on the cards. Either way, it’s on to Wembley now. I’ve missed the semi-final feeling.

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