Manchester United record worst start in 34 years as Palace victorious
There was a sense of déjà vu at the Theatre of Dreams as both sides had met only days ago, where Manchester United put three past Crystal Palace in the Carabao Cup third round.
However, in part two of this battle, events did not repeat themselves. Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United slumped to a 1-0 defeat – earned by their opposition in part, thanks to a Joachim Anderson thunderbolt volley paired with a resolute and robust defensive display.
Despite boasting 19 shots attempted, 77% possession and 10 corners in total, Manchester United failed to configure a breakthrough in the final third. Goal scoring woes mean the Manchester side have registered only seven goals in seven games; resulting in only four wins in what has become a dreadful start to the campaign.
Roy Hodgson’s Eagles climbed two points above United into ninth position – a just reward for staying disciplined and seizing the opportunity against Premier League giants.
First half – Andersen brilliance
Chances flooded in for both sides only ten minutes into the game. Marc Guehi found a free header in the Man United box from an in-swinging Anderson cross, only to misdirect the glanced aerial attempt wide. United looked stunned, potentially lacking the authority of the injured centre back Lisandro Martinez – whose 2-3 month spell out increases Ten Hag’s injury headache.
Manchester United responded just a minute later with an effort of their own with a quick, looped pass from Marcus Rashford. Summer signing Rasmus Højlund was the target and he won the leaping duel with Guehi to the ball. However, his succinct and goal-bound dink past goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was cleared by alert left back Tyrick Mitchell.
Casemiro and Sofyan Amrabat’s composed performances against Crystal Palace on Tuesday night seemed long forgotten, as weak control of possession and last-ditch fouls saw referee Chris Kavanagh award a foul on Jordan Ayew in the 25th minute.
Palace went into the game missing their top goal scorer Odsonne Édouard, but an unexpected hero stepped up in the form of centre back Joachim Andersen. Eberechi Eze’s sweeping delivery into the Manchester United box was dealt with poorly by Red Devils’ defensive unit as, from one Dane to another, Højlund’s inadequate clearance guided the ball into Andersen’s path. The centre back’s right-footed thunderbolt of a volley flashed past Andre Onana to give Crystal Palace a tidy first half lead.
Searching for a response, Man United edged forward, working the ball to the left flank in Marcus Rashford, whose overhit cross fell to number 20 Diogo Dalot. The attacking right-back nodded the ball onto Casemiro whose speculative shot from the edge of the area fizzed wide, summarising United’s continued frustration.
Second Half – United waste chances
Manchester United needed a famous comeback in the second half, to avoid their worst start to a season since their 1989/90 campaign. Despite mounting pressure on the Crystal Palace defence, ‘poor decision-making’ in the final third blunted United’s darting attacks.
Most notably Facundo Pellistri, who started on the right-wing following United’s ongoing issues in that position. The 21-year-old brilliantly dispossessed Mitchell in the 56th minute to start a fluid Man United break. Nevertheless, after driving into the Palace box, aimless passes saw the move falter and allowed for the likes of Cheick Doucoure and Will Hughes to recover and offer bodies behind the ball.
Bruno Fernandes’ eventual 20-yard effort swerved to force a Johnstone save; however, compared to Pellistri’s earlier chance to isolate the Palace defenders, reflects the toothlessness of United’s attack in pivotal moments.
Just minutes later, Marcus Rashford adamantly appealed for a Manchester United penalty after a diagonal ball to the left-winger was unknowingly intercepted by Joel Ward’s hand. The newly named Crystal Palace captain seemingly turned his back to the ball to face the threat of Marcus Rashford on the byline, only for the ball to glance his right hand before reaching the United player.
While totally unintentional, Ward’s arm somewhat made the defender bigger and took the ball away from Rashford in a dangerous position. Video assistant referee was used to checked the appeal, only to turn it down; but the decision does further blur the strictness of handball rules and their in-game application.
Ten Hag, late in the game, introduced numerous changes in a final roll of the dice for his desperate Manchester United team. One of these changes was the Manchester United’s break out youngster of last season, Alejandro Garnacho. The Argentine’s late cross caused a rare moment of defensive disorganisation for Palace; Andersen and Mitchell’s outstretched legs almost deflected Garnacho’s effort into the back of their own net. Garnacho came painfully close again in the 91st minute when Donny Van de Beek’s cushioned header at the back post for the number 17’s volley was valiantly blocked by multiple Palace bodies.
While Garnacho’s injection of directness offered a second wind for United’s chances of a point, it was Crystal Palace who emerged with all three in a well-drilled and collective performance that Roy Hodgson would be proud of. Manchester United’s attempts to reroute the direction of their season, following back-to-back clean sheet wins, was given a sour reality check in a defeat that highlighted the frailty of the club’s momentum.