Manchester United drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in the Premier League. It was yet another stagnant performance for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side who seemed benevolent rather than full of fight to win their matches. Palace beat them at Old Trafford at the start of the season and this side should have ben angry about that, seeking to overturn that result getting three points this evening, but Palace ended up getting four points from matches against United, which is really poor for a team that thinks they could win trophies, let alone league titles. Luke Shaw and Dean Henderson can hold their heads up high with Nemanja Matic also putting in a good performance against Palace. However, more needs to be done to get the results that United need.
United started on the high press, as they have done this season but Palace matched them with an energetic style of play, which did not set up the match that many would be hoping for, In the third minute, a ‘hospital pass’ as Gary Neville called it, from Marcus Rashford into Luke Shaw saw the left-back fouled and looking like he had done something to his ankle. He recovered minutes later though, which was good news. Palace had a chance from a free-kick in the seventh minute but nothing came of it. Then Christian Benteke shot over the crossbar and into the stands, which was pathetic play for the striker. Palace then got on the front foot and were attacking United, making them uneasy with many passes between United players in their own half.
In the 13th minute of the match, Nemanja Matic had a great shot on goal which forced a save from Vicente Guaita after Bruno Fernandes’ lay-off from 25-yards gave the Serbian defensive midfielder the time to take a chance to find a goal, which tend to be special from the player being that he does not score all that often. United then aimed to get forward as much as they could to get something from the game after that Matic chance, however, they would need to play a lot better in order to threaten the home side, who were not in great form but have risen to United’s challenge so far in this match. In the 19th minute, Marcus Rashford had a great chance to open the scoring but his shot was wide of the target, which is the story of his like at this moment in time.
Palace then started to force United wide, but they were not defending crosses all that well, which was good news for United but the players never really tried to get the better of their opposition knowing this. Edinson Cavani, back from injury missing the last four matches, had some good positioning in the half but there was nothing that was going to test the home side and put United ahead of them – at this stage anyway. Matic played the ball into Cavani in the 23rd minute, which was played to Mason Greenwood, whose shot from 20-yards was deflected wide of the target. United needed to up their game and get things firing in the right direction, pressuring this Palace side, who could capitulate under pressure.
United had another chance in the 27th minute through Rashford, who delivered a cross into the box for Cavani, but he failed to take the pace off the ball, seeing it go over the crossbar from just inside the area. United still need a lot of improvement to get the better of their opposition this evening. It was starting to become worrying that United were playing this poorly with Manchester City on the horizon. If they played like this on Sunday, it could be curtains for them. Palace then got some time on the ball and pushed United back into their half, getting a few chances but nothing to change the course of the match – thus far anyway. Solskjaer will need to have a plan in order to find a way to win this match.
United needed to take more risks in this match, not getting enough on any chances to take the lead. In the 43rd minute of the match United started to up the tempo of the game, recycling the ball after Shaw’s cross was cleared to Fred and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, whose low ball was ready to be tucked home by Cavani in the middle but Joel Ward made a vital sliding block to stop United from taking the lead. There was no added time at the end of the half – the half had been that bad with no real time wasting. Both sides will be up for the challenge in the second half though and that is something that United should be wary of, knowing what happened to them at the start of the season in this fixture at Old Trafford.
There were no changes from wither half at the start of the second half of the match. Both teams continues where they left off at the end of the first half, playing a pretty stagnant match with both sides having a lot to do in order to get something from the match. Palace started to shown signs of being the better team with United doing more of the same from the first half, which was not all that entertaining. In the 51st minute of the match, United had a shock after Harry Maguire was backpedaling and did not get much one a header to clear away the danger which Jordan Ayew just got on to passing it to Benteke with a one-two with the shot walloped into Dean Henderson who was not really tested at the start of the half. This was starting to become dire to watch.
Palace had another chance on the hour mark of the match after Luka Milivojevic’s free-kick from 25-yards, which bounced off the top of the United wall and dropped for Andros Townsend on the volley, before bouncing a foot wide of the far post. It was not really a chance but it was another sign to show just how terribly United have been playing at this point of the season. Solskjaer needs to start thinking about making a change so that there is time to try and influence the game. Inn the 67th minute, Daniel James was warming up but things just seem to be left too late and then when the changes are made, the players do not tend to have much time to get into the game, let alone try to change something.
Solskjaer made his first substitution in the 74th minute of the match with Scott McTominay replacing Fred, who had some impact in the midfield, but was poor in an attacking sense and pointless at shooting from range for goals as they always went wayward rather than created a goalscoring opportunity. McTominay had an instant impact, getting into the Palace box and threatening, however, the home side recovered and then threatened United in their own area of the pitch. Solskjaer then made his second change in the 76th minute with Daniel James replacing Cavani, whose impact in the game was not the best, although it was good to see him back from the injury that kept him out for the last four matches.
Mason Greenwood had a good chance in the final ten minute of the match after United got forward and looked positive in the match. He shot towards goal only to see his effort off target but perhaps one of the best chances for his side of the evening. It is a shame that United play like this when they need to stand up more than ever. It just shows that the requirement in the team to win the Premier League title is not yet present, which is a worry. United will once again remain a work in progress under Solskjaer, which is the most positive period of any manager post-Sir Alex Ferguson but these performances will not whet the thirst for many supporters as the dominant displays of high pressing football seem to have dropped of as soon as they arrived, so to speak.
United started to run out of time to get something from this match and it started to seem like yet another lacklustre 0-0 draw in a game that United should be winning. A month ago, United were being lauded as title contenders but poor results saw Manchester City come from below them to now open up a 14-point lead at the top of the Premier League table. If United play like this at the Etihad on Sunday, it was likely to be a tough afternoon for Solskjaer’s side. Dean Henderson made a great save to deny Palace with a few minutes of normal time remaining, which was good to see. He is another player who can hold his head high as he wants United to win at every chance they have. He should be playing more for this club. Perhaps that will happen.
United face a daunting trop to the Etihad on Sunday to face Manchester City, who could win the league at some point in the next month, which was something United dreamed of not all that long ago. Solskjaer needs to get some answers from his team at this time as the same tactics that he has been using are no longer working and there needs to be a change, either in personnel ons the pitch or a different tactical approach. United need three points against City and that is going to be a big ask for Solskjaer and United. Some players clearly need a break but this is not the time for that. After Sunday, United will face AC Milan at Old Trafford in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League round of 16 stage, which does not give these players any time to hide.
Manchester United: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; Fred (McTominay 74′), Matic; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani (James 76′)
Substitutes Not Used: Grant; Lindelof, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe; Diallo, Shoretire
Bookings: Jairo Riedewald 90+3′
Written by John Walker