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REPORT: Matic thunderbolt steals all three points for United

After a disappointing loss at home and a tough trip to Chelsea upcoming, Crystal Palace needed to pick up some form as they looked to survive the ongoing relegation battle. Visitors Manchester United were looking to keep building some momentum after last week’s strong win against Chelsea and Liverpool on the horizon.


Crystal Palace – 442 – Hennessy, Bissaka, Kelly, Tomkins, Van Aanholt, Townsend, McArthur, Milivojevic, Schlupp (Riedewald 80’), Benteke, Sorloth

Manchester United – 433 – De Gea, Valencia (Mata 67’), Smalling, Lindelof, Young (Shaw 67’), McTominay (Rashford 46’), Matic, Pogba, Lingard, Lukaku, Alexis

The tactics for Crystal Palace were clear from kickoff as they looked up for the match and unafraid to attack. Palace played very direct with long balls but were sharp in picking up most of the second balls as well. Manchester United looked flat and uninspired again in the beginning with only a couple half chances from Lukaku and Alexis to show for. 

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Palace continued to knock on the door whenever they had possession and eventually they got their reward. Benteke was played in after Milivojevic recovered a second ball and he found Townsend on the top of the box. His first time effort took a big deflection and left De Gea no chance. Palace started the match strong and were deservedly in front. Manchester United were sloppy all over the pitch and despite going behind, continued to sputter for the rest of the first half.

Rashford came on to start the second half with Manchester United switching back to a 4231 with Sanchez in behind Lukaku. Palace were narrow in their midfield of four and there was space to be exploited out wide by Rashford and Lingard. Early on, Matic conceded a silly foul in his own half and Palace were quick to play on. Schlupp smartly played Van Aanholt in behind who made no mistake at the near post with a powerful strike. Manchester United were caught sleeping after conceding the foul and Palace took full advantage. They were by far the better team the opening 50 minutes and had the goals to top it off.

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Finally after conceding their second, Manchester United seemed to wake up and slowly find their rhythm. There was better quality in the final third and their pressure was rewarded. A second consecutive corner was deflected out to Valencia who played a neat ball back in and found Smalling who made sure to get his team back in the match. Palace were slow to step up after clearing and they paid the price. Mourinho made positive changes with Valencia and Young coming off for Mata and Shaw. Lingard became a makeshift right back and Manchester United were going for it.

Shortly after, a long corner from Mata found Matic at the back post, whose effort was blocked by Benteke who did well to clear the danger. Manchester United continued to grow into the match with Mata making a massive difference. Some neat interplay through Lingard and Mata found Sanchez free on the top of the box and his effort was deflected onto the bar. Lukaku was quick to pick up the loose ball and after a few fakes, he emphatically found the back of the net past a few Palace defenders to give Manchester United their deserved equalizer. A poor first half of the match but a strong half an hour had them all the way back. Immediately after, Palace kept up their resilience and put the pressure on when they had the ball. Townsend with some space on the right whipped in an inviting ball for Benteke who thought he had done enough to give Palace back the lead but De Gea produced the unbelievable and kept his side alive.

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Manchester United kept up their desire for the winner and just needed one more chance to steal all three points. Palace continued to fight and weren’t ready to roll over once again. In injury time, a delightful pass from Sanchez found Mata in the box who then did well to set up a Pogba shot that got deflected. The ball fell to Matic about 35 yards out and after a deft touch and a couple bounces, Matic unleashed a venomous strike with plenty of swerve past the sprawling Hennessy and Manchester United had completed their comeback. Crystal Palace were the better side for most of the match but Manchester United kept at it and showed the necessary desire and quality to get the job done.

MOTM: All of the Manchester United players were poor for most of the game but when the time came, they stepped up. Most notable of those players was Nemanja Matic, whose astonishing strike capped off a fantastic match. An honorable mention to Andros Townsend who was outstanding for Palace from start to finish, providing the quality they needed in the attacking third and being involved in anything they tried to create.

Written by Ammar Nazarali. (@FPLAmmar)

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