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Manchester United 1-2 Crystal Palace | Talking Points

A historic night for Crystal Palace as Manchester United struggle desperately to continue an unbeaten start as Jordan Ayew and Patrick van Aanholt score decisive goals in a 1-2 win for the visitors, enough to trump Daniel James’ 89th minute curler.

Palace set off from the start with a clear plan in mind to blunt any United attack using a well-structured and disciplined structure in Roy Hodgson’s accustomed 4-5-1 formation seemingly reserved for ‘big 6’ opposition.

Palace’s midfield put in an admirable display, nullifying their United counterparts.

Victor Lindelof was at fault for the first goal, losing an aerial duel to a man he gives up almost 10 centimetres to, Jeffrey Schlupp. Schlupp’s header sent through an on-rushing Jordan Ayew who had no problem putting the ball past David de Gea’s outstretched legs.

Manchester United pressed harder for an equaliser but could find no way through an adept Crystal Palace team.

It wasn’t until 69 minutes, when McTominay was clearly fouled in the box that United would get their next best chance at goal, but it was all for nothing as Rashford spurred the Red Devils’ 2nd consecutive penalty.

As the game wore on, United put more men forward and Palace replied by putting more men behind the ball setting up a frantic final few minutes.

An 89th minute equaliser – an incredibly well-placed top-corner finish from Daniel James – led United to believe they had stolen a point at the brink of defeat.

Albeit four minutes later, Patrick van Aanholt picked up a loose ball inside United’s penalty box – sent loose by an Aaron Wan-Bissaka tackle – and slotted it through de Gea’s hands for the winner.

Palace and United are now on equal points three games in to the season despite largely contrasting starts for the most part.

Records broken: left, right and centre

Before the match, Palace had faced 28 teams since their most recent promotion to the Premier League for the beginning of the 2013/14 season but had only managed victories against 27. After the weekend gone by, Palace have now registered three points against every club they have played, since then, thanks to their maiden league win against Manchester United.

This was Palace’s 11th overall season in the Premier League since its inaugural 1992/93 campaign. Over these 11 seasons, this would be their 21st league meeting with Manchester United and it is now their first collective 3 points out of all 21 games. After 4 draws and 16 losses, Palace have finally broken their Red Devil-shaped duck.

Not to outdo themselves, the visitors left it until ‘Fergie-time’ to seal their victory – the 93rd minute Patrick van Aanholt winner was the first 90th minute goal (including injury time) scored by an away team at Old Trafford. This is most likely a trend United will not want to become accustomed to.

Who’s taking penalties at Manchester United?

At the start of this week Marcus Rashford seemed to have been allotted the penalty duties after he won and scored a spot-kick against Chelsea in game-week one. Paul Pogba stepped up in game-week two – without any noticeable protest from the striker – only for the Frenchman to miss the penalty he had just won.

This means Pogba now has the 6th worst record of all comers with more than 10 attempted penalties in Premier League history. Missing 36% of his penalties in his career out of a total of 18 surely puts question marks over his future employment as the designated penalty specialist.

Marcus Rashford must have felt hard done by watching on as Pogba squandered what, in hindsight, would have been the game winner against Wolves earlier this week. Consequently, Rashford was entrusted with the spot-kick against Palace but he too failed to hit his mark from the spot.

Rashford successfully sent Crystal Palace keeper, Vincente Guaita, the wrong way, only for his effort to collide with the post and rebound agonisingly close to the goal line. The striker-turned-winger watched on in disbelief as he missed his first ever penalty, out of seven. It certainly wasn’t seventh heaven for Rashford and United.

Interestingly, United have the worst penalty conversion rate of all current Premier League teams who have taken more than 10 penalties since the start of the 2002/03 season with a mere 73.4% (Brighton have scored 5 of their 7 for a percentage of 71.2%).

The 4-5-1 does it again

It worked for Roy Hodgson to stop Manchester City’s then history-breaking run of 19 straight wins in game-week 21 of the 2017/18 season. It almost worked later that season against before an 84th minute winner sealed the 3 points for Liverpool.

Last season against Arsenal in game-week 10 (a 2-2 draw), away at the Etihad in game-week 18 (a 2-3 win for Palace) and the 4-5-1 formation came agonisingly close to a third success but for two late Liverpool goals in a 4-3 loss away at Anfield in game-week 23.

Entering his third overall season in charge, Hodgson has managed to pull it off again against United in game-week three.

Hodgson seems to utilize this formation in an effort to nullify the forward press and possession-based style of the ‘big 6’ teams.

It requires the tireless efforts of a lone striker, combined with a devastatingly precise lateral structure in midfield and 90 minutes of unbreakable concentration from the four defenders.

If the midfield is breached, the two wide-midfielders will fall back to act as wing-backs, tracking the opposing fullbacks to create a crowded, yet organised, six-man defence.

Once the ball is won, it is bunted forward or played to a pacey midfielder, igniting a counter-attack, which was the source of both Palace goals on Saturday.

A simple, yet intricate game-plan has so often worked for the veteran coach in his tactics to blunt higher echelon opposition. It is quenching for the tactical-thirsting observant and equally as frustrating for the combatant players and fans alike.

Look out for such a tactic to be employed away to Spurs in two-weeks time.

£135 million on defence, not enough on offence

A clear and most definitely frustrating common occurrence last season was the faltering of the Manchester United defence. Undoubtedly it was the catalyst for the club’s omission from Champions League qualification.

Astutely, the board input £135 million worth of funds into the shaky – at best – defence. Breaking world record fees by making Harry Maguire the most expensive defender in history and Aaron Wan-Bissaka the third-most-expensive full back and most valuable English full-back ever.

Although they have conceded three goals in their three games thus far, the defence – as a whole – has seemed more adept and disciplined in comparison to recent seasons. Maguire and Lindelof will take time to develop and form a solidified partnership, but at 26 and 25-years-old, respectively, the duo has nothing but time on their side.

Luke Shaw’s name feels like it’s been around for a while, but the 24-year-old can still be considered in the youth of the team. Once-upon-a-time he was touted as Ashley Cole’s long-term English replacement at left-back before injuries derailed an enticing career. Under Mourinho he reclaimed his defensive craft and Solskjær has helped him discover an intelligent offensive nous.

On the opposing flank, Wan-Bissaka’s story has been told and re-told over again. Adding the best tackler of all defenders from last season to arguably the league’s best goalkeeper, in David de Gea, will prove invaluable this season and potentially years to come.

However, £18 million-man, Daniel James, who has been booked for simulation twice in his three appearances thus far, was the only offensive addition to the side.

Juan Mata is now on the wrong side of 30, Romelu Lukaku, however floundering, is a significant and permanent loss after leaving for Inter Milan before the end of the Italian transfer window and Alexis Sanchez’s fall from grace from world beater to oft-injured benchwarmer is almost unmatched.

Meanwhile academy graduate, Jesse Lingard, has more assists for United’s under-23 side (20) than the first team (18) having appeared 165 times for the first team, 106 more than he did for the under-23 side.

Subsequently, this humongous burden has densely fallen on the shoulders of 21 and 23-year-old Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. However talented they may be, experienced heads will forever be required on-field to nurture any young starlet and this is something United lack dearly. Flare, precision and power are easily noticeable traits of teammate, Paul Pogba’s, persuasion. But is the ambivalent-Frenchman capable of fostering two talents all on his lonesome as the sole, permanent veteran in the starting XI?

Zaha nullified; no problem for Palace

The level of consistency shown by Zaha throughout recent seasons has been both admirable and outstanding for a team that is quite often tussling the proposition of relegation.

The Ivorian-national is the second highest scoring non-striker outside of the ‘big 6’ teams over the last two combined seasons. Scoring 19 goals (Note: Marko Arnautovic played the vast majority of the last two seasons as a striker since his conversion to the role in late 2017), only behind Palace penalty-specialist, Luka Milivojevic, throughout the combined 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons.

However, as every Crystal Palace fan will tell you, Zaha’s influence is an immeasurable metric. The ability to dribble the ball from the defensive third to the offensive third on a weekly basis is a fanciful quality boasted by very, very few players in the Premier League, let alone the world.

Despite obvious talent, to begin this season, Zaha wouldn’t be able find himself in the top 11 performed players throughout Palace’s list, according to WhoScored.com. This could be due to several factors: the winger played as a striker in his opening two appearances, being double and triple-teamed at every opportunity or maybe a hint of fatigue following the AFCON during the English summer.

Be it as it may, Palace have won four points against two members of last season’s top 8 without their talisman registering a whimper. Zaha’s quality is undeniable and any who testify otherwise may be bitter recipients of Zaha-magic.

Jordan Ayew – after spurring a similar opportunity in game-week one against Everton – had no problem beating an even better keeper 1-on-1 on the weekend. Jeffrey Schlupp’s flexibility in positioning has proven itself on many a big occasion, scoring and assisting against both Manchester clubs over the last two seasons. Andros Townsend, off the back of a nomination for the FIFA Puskás goal of the year, is no stranger to the goal and his inviting early crosses have often been found wanting.

The trio have been joined by creative midfielders, Max Meyer and Victor Camarasa, over the last two seasons. Both of whom, when played in favourable positions, proved to be a handful for opposition clubs in struggling Premier League sides last season.

Should Palace sell Zaha in January, they will receive – undoubtedly – an eye-watering fee. Replacing Zaha will be a treacherous task and will require multiple signings, but they have a promising foundation to start from.

Up Next

Both sides face teams who look set to battle relegation this season, with United travelling to Southampton and Palace welcoming Aston Villa to Selhurst Park. Both clubs will be looking to adding to their four-point tallies come game-week four from winnable games, but as this match has shown, football is not that simple.

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