Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. United showed good attacking ability, attacking Palace relentlessly throughout the match with the visitors having less than 40% of the ball and not really causing much attacking threat themselves. United struggled to find the goals though, which was a worry. Ralf Rangnick’s side eventually found the opening goal in the 77th minute of the match through none other than Fred, who became an Old Trafford hero once again. In the last few weeks, Fred has risen to becoming one of the stars of this team.
United started the match in fine fettle showing their ability to gegenpress with is the term for counter-pressing in Germany which is something that Ralf Rangnick is associated with. In fact, the early stages of the match showed this United side to be pretty dominant in this action. It was good to see and it has left me wondering why this team did not play in this way under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. That was all he wanted for the club. That said, this new look United side is impressive and it is clear that United have made a good choice with Rangnick. By the 33rd minute of the match, United had six shots on goal – just one of those on target.
United continued to overpower Palace, attacking them relentlessly but not able to find a chance that could put them ahead in this match. It was still great progress in a few training sessions which bodes well with what could be in the next month or so with United having an easier spell in the Premier League than they have had over the last two months or so. The half ended goalless, which is a worry as United were not able to convert a good attacking chance into a goal, so there will be a worry with United’s ability to make mistakes in the defence and Palace taking the benefit of that. United needed to be more clinical in the second half pushing for a goal.
There were no changes for either side at the start of the second half. United needed to be more clinical. The pressing has been good but in terms of innovation and creativity, this team needed to be doing a lot more to get their opposition on the ropes. Rome was not built in a day and this team will be given the time to implement different things but there will need to be developments for the club to kick on and finally turn the corner in terms of becoming something that looks in the right direction for the finished article. There was a lapse in momentum which allowed Palace to have a positive spell, but United once again took over control of the game.
United were unlucky on an attack which saw Jadon Sancho with the ball but his shot/cross was too hard a hit and the ball went out of play. Rangnick made his first substitution of the match in the 62nd minute with Mason Greenwood replacing Sancho. Palace had been pressing more than last season, winning a corner in the 64th minute of the match, which was no real threat in the box but Connor Gallagher won the ball in the midfield, tried a long-range shot and got it all wrong. United had a lot left to do in order to win this match and perhaps the introduction of Greenwood could help United achieve that?
In the 76th minute of the match, Rangnick made his second substitution with Anthony Elanga replacing Rashford. The introduction sparked something for United with them on the attack and Fred finding the ball on the edge of the box, having been played it by Greenwood. The Brazilian then launched for the top corner, putting United 1-0 up at this late stage of the game. In the 82nd minute, Harry Maguire was down after a head collision with a Palace player. He was receiving treatment in the six-yard box before Rangnick made his final substitution of the match with Donn van de Beek waiting on the sidelines.
Rangnick made his final chance in the 86th minute of the match with Van de Beek replacing Fernandes, who did not have the greatest of appearances for the club in this match. Still, United were 1-0 up and still in control of the match, but should be seeking that elusive second goal with added time coming. It would be a very bad taste for United to concede a goal in added time which would make this sweet victory seem like a defeat. That did not happen as United pushed on to beat Palace, keeping another clean sheet, which has been a rarity at the Theatre of Dreams and this season. Three points in the bag, Rangnick’s era has begun.
United return to UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday evening when they welcome Young Boys to the Theatre of Dreams in the final group stage match of the season with United already confirmed as the group winners and into the knockout stages already. This could be a good game for fringe players, who should be given the chance to shine under their new manager. On Saturday, United will travel to face bottom of the league Norwich City, which should be nothing less than a victory for the Red Devils as they look to claw back the points on their rivals, seeking to break back into the top four during this Festive period.
Goals: Fred 77′
Assists: Mason Greenwood 77′
Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles; Fred, McTominay; Sancho (Greenwood 62′), Fernandes (Van de Beek 86′), Rashford (Elanga 76′); Ronaldo
Substitutes Not Used: Henderson; Bailly, Jones, Wan-Bissaka; Mata, Matic
Bookings: Scott McTominay 81′, Victor Lindelof90+1′; Nathaniel Clyne 31′, Marc Guéhi 67′
Written by John Walker