After Crystal Palace was defeated 1-3 by Manchester United on Wednesday evening, both managers agreed that Manchester United was the superior team. However, it was difficult to pinpoint what worked for the Manchester United squad during the match.
Manchester United’s Performance
On the surface, Romelu Lukaku managed to score two sensational goals. However, his overall performance was very inconsistent and was filled with poor touches when he tried to link with other players. There was also limited combination play within the final third, with Diogo Dalot being too full of connecting with others successfully and Alexis Sanchez once again peripheral. Paul Pogba, in midfield, was quite impressive. However, Scott McTominay and Fred still seemed quite uncertain about their positional responsibilities. The full-backs seemed ragged after the first half, and the contribution from David De Gea let him down after he collided with the post during the second half.
But, yet again, Manchester United managed to win. Two phenomenal finishes from Romelu Lukaku, a side-footed goal after Luke Shaw produced excellent work. An incredible acrobatic goal after the ball managed to break free from a corner, placed Manchester United into a commanding lead. The far-post header from Joel Ward provided a brief contest, before a push forward from Ashley Young sealed the victory for Manchester United.
The familiar figures for goals calculated that Crystal Palace managed to create better opportunities for purposes where they led 1.9 xG against United’s 1.5. However, this is not the first time that Crystal Palace squandered opportunities on the field. Manchester United claimed victory without playing well.
Solskjaer endured injury absences as only Marcus Rashford was just fit for the bench. The manager’s tactics were developed to guard the left-side threat of Crystal Palace where Dalot was pushed as a right-sided midfielder. He was later requested to drop back to assist Young in defending the trio threat of Palace, including Patrick van Aanholt, Jeffery Schlupp, and Wilfried Zaha.
“It was essentially a means to an end due to the injuries we were facing,” Solskjaer admitted for his decision to play Dalot as a right-back. “Dalot played as a winger during his time at Porto, and he is extremely skilled going forward.”
While Sanchez was drifting inside from the left-hand side, Dalot never made a move from the right flank. This meant that the Palace didn’t have any space to break free. Ashley Young remained in position, nearly as a third centre-back once United possessed the ball, while Shaw was given the go-ahead to push forward.
Pogba was pushing forward in the centre but didn’t have opportunities to link with Lukaku or Sanchez who didn’t appear very capable of playing together. The goals were created from nothing, and while United had most of the ball possession, they struggled to break through the lines of Palace.