Report: Abject display at the Theatre of Dreams sees Crystal Palace take a point in Manchester – for the first time more than two decades


Manchester United drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Despite looking like the best team in the clash, Jose Mourinho’s side played abject football and did not take any chances they created, of which there was few of. Romelu Lukaku had chances to break his goalscoring drought, which was destined to last a bit longer. United need to change things up and fast.

United started well against Palace with the play coming from deep inside United’s half with Paul Pogba playing the ball to Romelu Lukaku from 20-yards out with the Belgian then passing to Jesse Lingard, who scored twice for England during the international break. The ball bounced kindly and the United Academy graduate shot a gold-bound shot which was blocked by Aaron Wan-Bissaka. United won a corner, which came to nothing.

In the sixth minute of the match, United were starting to warm into the game, even though it seemed one-sided so far. Pogba was the player driving United forward, passing to Nemanja Matic, who then passed to Anthony Martial, who got in behind the Palace back line from deep, perfectly onside. Wayne Hennessey rushed off his line as the Frenchman took the ball on his chest with the Palace shot-stopper grabbing the ball, with Martial seemingly touching it with his hand.

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Two minutes later, United were clearly trying to put the ball over the top into Lukaku, who was sitting between Palace’s central defenders. Matteo Darmian found the Belgian, who was just offside. Lukaku could have done with the ball being played a fraction earlier, which could have resulted in United scoring the opening goal of the game. In the tenth minute, Luka Milivojevic was booked for a cynical foul on Lingard.

Pogba was starting to look like the player he should be in the opening stages of this game, running the show from midfield which was good to see. However, this was Crystal Palace, not Real Madrid. Consistency is key and the Frenchman has been less than consistent in his second spell at United. The Red Devils were camped in the Palace half, which showed the visitors that this match was not going to be easy for them.

In the 16th minute, Palace had a bit more of the ball and ventured forward, although they were not the best in United’s final third, seemingly having no output in attack, perhaps frightened of United’s threat on the counter. Former United winger, Wilfried Zaha had a chance in the 18th minute, having the ball on the left, finding some space, cutting to the right and shooting from about 20-yards, which was high and wide of the target.

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United followed with a chance at the other end of the pitch after Lingard played the ball to Pogba, who was 15-yards from goal. The Frenchman hit the ball with the inside of his foot, looking to bury the shot into the top-right corner. The shot did not trouble Hennessey as it was wide of the target. Palace had another chance in United’s area after Lingard played a silly pass, which was intercepted by Milivojevic, then played to Zaha who took a few touches and shot towards goal, wide again.

In the 24th minute, Lingard had a go from 20-yards out, which was deflected perfectly into the path of Martial but his touch was not the best with the ball bouncing off his knee and out of play. United were putting plenty of build-up play in the Palace area but they needed to be a lot more clinical in this game. They need not fear Palace, just get into fifth gear and finish them off.

Palace found a chance to break through, from the counter, pushing United back after Matic’s loose pass. Zaha was showing his former team how good he has become, pushing the back line further back with his pace, then passing to Patrick van Aanholt, whose shot was poor after leaving United’s defenders open with the counter-attack. Palace should have been a goal to the good. United won a free-kick in the 28th minute, taken by Juan Mata and nearly saw United score, although Chris Smalling did not connect with a header.

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United had another opportunity to open the scoring in the 30th minute with Ashley Young, on the left, passing to Lingard whose effort was saved by Hennessey. Lingard then had the ball again, Martial headed towards goal with the cross but the Frenchman did not have enough on the ball to make the difference. Andros Townsend found some space on the right for Palace, dinking in a cross by David De Gea gathered the ball to cut out the threat.

Palace kept the ball in and around United’s box for a few minutes, seeking a way to get themselves ahead in the game. However, that was not forthcoming. Palace did win a corner, but it came to nothing. In the 36th minute, Pogba failed to control his pass, which gave the Palace fans something to cheer about, the Frenchman then fired from range, which flew over the crossbar. United later won a corner, taken by Mata, which was no danger to Palace or Hennessey.

With five minutes remaining in the first half, a poor touch by Zaha gave United another chance to break by Pogba’s poor touch then gave Palace the same chance United had. Nothing came of it though. It seemed to be such a topsy-turvy first half with chances for both teams, neither taking the chance. United need to find a way to improve as the football is abject, there is no urgency or determination to score or play the way the supporters expect. No real great ingredients in this brand of football.

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Palace opened the scoring, which could have been an own goal for Victor Lindelof, although Cheikhou Kouyate had a touch of the ball. The assistant took his time to raise the flag but it was an offside decision and United got off a bit lucky there. The writing has been on the wall for the majority of the half and if United wanted to turn things around this season, the players will need to pull up their socks and play for the badge on the shirt, not the name on the back. 0-0 a half-time.

There were no changes for either team at the start of the second half. United started where they finished, aiming to take control of the match. Pogba spread the ball out wide to Young, who curled in a dangerous cross into the box towards Lukaku, who had the chance to score a goal to end his drought, seemingly wanting to keep that drought running for a bit longer. It was a great chance for the Belgian but United won a corner instead, which became another corner, which came to nothing for United.

United finally scored in the 56th minute of the match through Lukaku, who seemingly ended his goal drought but the flag was up for offside and the game was square again. Both teams had been denied goals, which made it a fair and equal game. United were turning the screw a little more in the right direction but they still needed to do so much better to get all three points from this game. Jose Mourinho made his first substitutions of the game with Marouane Fellaini and Marcus Rashford replacing Lingard and Mata.

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Palace had a chance to make a break in the 62nd minute, just after United made their double substitution. Kouyate had a go from 20-yards, a shot which De Gea parried. Van Aanholt gained the advantage by picking up the ball but his effort was saved by De Gea again. Palace then gave as good as they got, showing that United needed to substantially up their game. Mourinho made his final change with Alexis Sanchez replacing Pogba in the 66th minute.

There was a break in play after Milivojevic was down injured and maybe needing a stretcher to take him off the field. The Serbian was able to continue. Young was booked in the 70th minute of the game for a professional foul on James McArthur. United then attempted a break, through Rashford twice winning the ball back. Sanchez used his pace to pass the halfway line but his pass to Martial was not quite as precise as it should have been. There were groans in the Old Trafford crowd.

Palace had a great chance to put themselves ahead in the game inside the 74th minute. Townsend galloped forward, getting past both Matic and Lindelof with the ball not being controlled by anyone. Townsend was through on goal with only De Gea to beat. The former England international shot with his right foot and sprayed wide of the right post with Hodgson grimacing in the dugout. Palace had so many good chances in this game, not taking any of them.

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Palace looked like the team with the best chance of winning this game with United not having many chances in this game at all and Palace wasting all of theirs. Martial had a chance for United, opening his body up on the edge of the box then aiming for the bottom left corner but hitting the side netting. Townsend had another chance at the other end, seeing a cross-shot go wide of the target. This should be a game where United were out of sight in the lead but seemingly out of sight due to sheer ineptitude instead.

United had a great chance to put themselves ahead in this game in the 83rd minute after Darmian passed the ball in from the right. The cross was not the best by Lukaku made the most of it heading towards goal, making Hennessey stretch with the Palace goalkeeper coming out on top and stopping the Belgian from breaking his goalscoring drought. United responded by pushing further forward and putting Palace under some pressure. However, it came to nothing, so far at least.

Palace made their first change in the 88th minute with Townsend being replaced by Jeffrey Schlupp. It has been more than two decades since Palace took a point in a Premier League game in Manchester and as it stands, that will be the result they take away, breaking another record which United will not want. in the 89th minute, Sanchez had a chance to put United ahead, which was not what happened.

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Palace made a second substitution in stoppage time with Zaha being replaced by Jordan Ayew. Four additional minutes were added at the end of the second half, giving both teams a chance to find a winning goal. Lindelof was seemed to be injured in the dying minutes of the game but was able to continue with Palace seeking to take advantage and aim not just to get a point, but get all three. The whistle was blown at the end of the game to a chorus of boos from the Old Trafford crowd. Top four for the end of the year Mourinho?

Manchester United: De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Lindelof, Young; Matic, Pogba (Sanchez 68′); Lingard (Fellaini 60′), Mata (Rashford 60′), Martial; Lukaku

Substitutes Not Used: Grant; Jones, Valencia; Fred

Bookings: Luka Milivojevic 10′, Mamadou Sakho 27′; Ashley Young 71′

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