BY FRANK GARRASI
Manchester United took all three points in front of a noisy home crowd but will not have done much in dispelling any who have doubted their top 4 credentials, with a lacklustre performance against lowly Crystal Palace.
United’s defence has come under much criticism this season, however it was their attack that performed well below par throughout the match.
With a stranglehold on possession, United were unable to create many clear cut chances against a resolute Crystal Palace defence; with Angel Di Maria and Adnan Januzaj in particular, struggling to make an impact.
Di Maria’s recent drop in form may be concerning to some United supporters, however it’s Januzaj’s lack of desire to go past his man this season that many will find more concerning, with the opposite being a trait that saw him become one of the few shining lights during David Moyes’ brief tenure.
Very rarely did Manchester United’s number 11 glide his way past Crystal Palace left back Joel Ward, instead opting to turn and play the ball to a presenting Marouane Fellaini or Michael Carrick.
United’s slow build-up play and lack of creativity in attack was reminiscent to the first three matches of the season, where the Red Devils lost at home to Swansea, and drew away to both Sunderland and Burnley.
On a more positive note, United’s back four looked assured and tight for most of the game, with the mix up between Paddy McNair and Daley Blind in the first half the one instant where this wasn’t the case.
At full back, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw had very solid games against two wingers in Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon who, on their day, are known to give headaches to Premier League defences.
Luke Shaw, in particular, played very well and it was he who gave United their best scoring opportunity in the first half with a strong run from defence and a good finish that was equaled by Julian Speroni in Palace’s goal.
As well as this, Michael Carrick’s first full game after having ankle surgery was very positive, rarely putting a foot wrong all game and being United’s best passer of the ball on the day.
Wayne Rooney as well put in a shift, helping out both in attack and defence in a deeper role, where he made some timely interceptions as well as getting into the Palace box and causing a threat.
Van Gaal’s substitutions were also a positive to take out of the game, with Juan Mata being the man to score the only goal of the game, and James Wilson showing some good touches and pace: a very exciting prospect for United fans.
With a trip to the Emirates Stadium in two weeks, United can take advantage of the international break to improve their style of play for an Arsenal team who themselves have been improving recently, as well as help nurture players such as Phil Jones and Johnny Evans back to full fitness.