Although the main focus of gameweek three was between Liverpool and Arsenal, Manchester United had a good opportunity to bounce back from the Wolves stalemate with the home fixture against Crystal Palace. As majority of the top-six sides have failed to be effectively convincing, it would have been ideal for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to pick up another early win in the season.
As a whole, the match resulted in a way that not many ahead predicted before kick-off, where the hosts dominated possession and apparently had the game under control, when all of a sudden, the visitors went direct on the counter and scored through Jordan Ayew in the 32nd minute. Throughout the first half, United’s footballing style was constantly sideways and was played at a really slow place, allowing Roy Hodgson’s men to sit comfortably deep and with not much to worry about.
Things went from bad to worse for United in the second half, as a couple of big chances went down the drain and Marcus Rashford’s attempt from the penalty spot in 70th minute hit the woodwork. However, the side’s goal and equaliser finally came in 89th minute as Daniel James well-placed shot went past Vicente Guaita and into the far corner of net. In the final moments of the game, United’s overload of players allowed Crystal Palace to break brutally on the counter and to shockingly get the winner.
Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…
Lack of creativity and urgency
Throughout the whole game, United failed to cause a number of problems for Crystal Palace’s backline and Vicente Guaita, as they went on to complete the same amount of shots on target as the opposition. The Red Devils actually completed zero shots on goal by the half-time break, which more or less implies that the side’s lack of creativity and urgency is starting to show when they are desperately in need of it.
After the break, Solskjaer’s men did take things up a notch by raising the tempo on the ball and in terms of looking to progress more forward whilst in possession, but they were seriously in need of a playmaker that can pull the strings with ease and open up the opponent’s defence without trying. United’s main options within this position is either Jesse Lingard or Juan Mata, though, they are not the ideal individuals that can produce the final third goods on a consistent and effective basis.
Ole needs to begin experimenting more tactically
Solskjaer kept the same line-up as the one that faced Wolves last week, but majority of the Old Trafford faithful were hoping that a couple of changes were made in order for the squad to know that no one’s place in the starting line-up is guaranteed. On the other hand, the manager himself will need to experiment into new formations and tactics, in order to get the best out of his own players and work around the opposition’s system.
A potential plan B may include the back-three/five setup, which would allow Axel Tuanzebe to play more regularly and in the backline along with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, giving United the defensive stability they need and the licence for the wing-backs and Paul Pogba to constantly advance high up the pitch. As Ole does not have strength in numbers within midfield and attack, they currently have no option but to focus on dominating possession on both sides of the pitch and take their limited chances.
United won’t progress far with the current midfield options
At this moment of time, it can easily be stated that United will have huge and great difficulty in finishing in the top four this season and with any intentions they have of domestic cup success. Based on the last couple of games, the side have unfortunately failed to control and dominate the game in the middle of the pitch, a department that is not filled with many talented or experienced players. And the departures of both Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini have not helped at all.
With the club failing to bring in a replacement for the mentioned duo or an upgrade on some of the deadwood within this area, a single injury to either Paul Pogba or Scott McTominay will ruin the manager’s balance and the side’s stability for a number of weeks. And if the side start to drop points on a more regular basis, the board will then surely regret not buying Bruno Fernandes or Thomas Partey, two well-known individuals who are seen as the missing piece to United’s broken midfield.