5 Observations from Manchester United 1-2 Crystal Palace
Manchester United suffered their first major setback of the Premier League this season, as the Red Devils went down 2-1 against Crystal Palace in what proved to be a humiliating result at home for Ole Gunnar Solakjaer’s side.
Having kicked off their campaign with a 4-0 drubbing of Chelsea followed by a decent 1-1 draw against Wolves, the fans at Old Trafford would have expected the home fixture against a struggling Palace unit to be three easy points up for grabs.
However, it turned out to be a different story altogether and United’s first slip-up early in the ongoing season was a warning to the fans that they shouldn’t expect things to take a dramatic turnaround overnight following a woeful run of form last campaign.
Daniel James looked to have rescued a point for United with his 89th-minute equaliser, cancelling out Jordan Ayew’s first-half opener, but the visitors had other ideas and Patrick van Aanholt’s stoppage-time winner handed the Eagles their first-ever Premier League victory over United.
Without further ado, let us analyse United’s unexpected debacle at Old Trafford in Round 3 of the Premier League this weekend.
1. United back to their old lacklustre ways
After a couple of promising displays against Chelsea and Wolves, it looked as if United’s heavy investment in the summer had solved all their problems, with the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire starring at the back in the first couple of games.
That, however, changed dramatically against Palace and the centre-back pairing of Maguire and Victor Lindelof lacked any sort of conviction whatsoever.
Lindelof found himself regularly outjumped by the Palace attackers, which is a shame for a centre-back of his calibre.
Maguire, who looked rock-solid in the first two games, let the team down with his positioning for Ayew’s opener and when the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Jeffrey Schulpp drove forward with pace, United’s defenders didn’t look comfortable in dealing with them.
Moreover, Luke Shaw succumbed to injury once again after a good start, so United still have something to sort out as far as their defence is concerned.
2. Scott McTominay and Jesse Lingard aren’t good enough to start for United every week
Jesse Lingard’s poor touches and aimless passes elicited a few moans and groans from the Old Trafford crowd, so much so that assistant manager Mike Phelan had to regularly get off his seat to mentor him.
As evident from Solskjaer’s team selection since the second half of the previous campaign, the Norwegian prefers Lingard to the likes of Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata in the No.10 role in his 4-2-3-1 system. However, the fact that he is yet to score or assist a goal this term should raise some questions regarding his inclusion.
Scott McTominay, who has emerged as a key player for the Red Devils under Solskjaer, wasn’t as bad as Lingard in the 2-1 defeat but his inability to make an impact against teams that sit deep inside their own half was quite apparent.
Indeed, the youngster, who is certainly not a finished product by any means, has his limitations as a central midfielder and one cannot help but wonder if his place would have been in serious jeopardy had the Red Devils brought in a replacement for Ander Herrera this summer.
3. United need to sort out their set-piece duties
For the second time in a row, United’s failure to convert from the penalty spot proved to be a major impediment to securing three points, as Marcus Rashford spurned the opportunity to draw his team level in the second half after McTominay was tripped inside the box by Luka Milivojevic.
Rashford was given the nod ahead of Paul Pogba when it came to shouldering the responsibility of converting the spot-kick, given that the Frenchman had failed to grab his opportunity against Wolves. However, the youngster could only smash his effort against the inside of the post.
Apart from the penalty-taking duties, United also need to single out a specialist set-piece taker when it comes to direct free-kicks from outside the box.
Rashford’s knuckleball striking technique caught out goalkeepers several times last season but he showed against Palace that he isn’t consistent enough to deliver the goods every week, whilst Pogba was equally wasteful in that regard. Maybe, they are missing someone like Juan Mata.
4. James and Martial were the only positives
United threatened in patches over the course of the ninety minutes at Old Trafford but one would have expected them to create more chances from open play.
The lack of creativity on display was pretty disgusting and things could probably have been worse for the hosts had it not been for the pace and movement of Daniel James and Anthony Martial.
On a day where Rashford and Lingard looked completely out of sorts, Martial and James put their hands up and the duo certainly deserves plenty of credit for its performance.
Martial was arguably United’s best forward, creating opportunities with his clever turn of pace and slick passing, and the Frenchman was probably unlucky not to have earned his team a penalty when he was held back by a Palace defender inside the box.
James, on the other hand, continued his fine run of form in the Premier League and had a couple of really close shaves before eventually coming up with a sensational equaliser in the 89th minute. However, it wasn’t enough to save the blushes for his team.
5. A few players lost in the cold and de Gea’s woes
Solskajer’s enthusiasm to promote youngsters like Axel Tuanzebe, McTominay, Mason Greenwood and James has led to several of the established players missing out on a place in the matchday squad.
The centre-back duo of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, as well as Fred, who was one of the marquee signings last summer, seem to have slipped down the pecking order under Solskjaer, with the three players failing to make even a single matchday squad appearance so far.
Nemanja Matic, who was amongst the more regular faces last season, has yet to enter the field of play in the Premier League this term, despite having been named on the bench in each of the three games.
Hence, United need to make a decision on the future of quite a few players and Solskajer needs to understand that a transition is a prolonged procedure that calls for time and patience, meaning that dropping so many experienced players isn’t necessarily the best solution moving forward.
De Gea came under scrutiny for some uncharacteristic high-profile errors between the sticks last season and while that was largely considered as a mere blip, his current form isn’t really a good sign for Solskajer and United.
5 of the biggest upsets in the 2018/19 season of the Premier League
2018-19 Premier League rewind: A look back at the 5 of the biggest upsets
There was hardly any shortage of drama, excitement and hype in the 2018-19 season of the Premier League, with some mesmerizing individual performances, sheer moments of magic, edge-of-the-seat thrillers and a see-saw title race producing yet another enthralling season of football.
As a matter of fact, it was goals galore all throughout the campaign, as the grand total of 1072 goals made the 2018-19 season the most prolific ever in the history of the Premier League.
In the end, Man City successfully managed to defend their Premier League title, as Pep Guardiola’s side broke Liverpool’s hearts and ensured that the Reds’ pursuit of a first domestic title since 1990 ultimately ended in failure.
The final day of the campaign ended in ecstasy for the fans at Etihad, while those at Anfield would have felt the pain of falling short by a solitary point despite a valiant effort from their team.
We all know that the Premier League is famous for producing plenty of thrills and spills, which is probably the reason why it is widely acclaimed as the most competitive league in the world.
When we speak about competition, it is expected that the league would also have a touch of unpredictability to it.
The 2018/19 season, indeed, produced some massive upsets, where the lesser teams defied the odds and took everybody by surprise to shock the heavyweights operating in the upper reaches of the competition.
Surprisingly, winners Man City were also at the receiving end of three such upsets; one each at the hands of Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.
It is true that we have a definitive top-six in the Premier League these days but we witnessed last season that the mid-table teams and even the relegation-threatened sides are more than capable of pulling off surprises on their day. With that in mind, let us revisit those instances when teams defied belief to register the unlikeliest of victories.
1. Leicester City vs Man City- Boxing Day
Leicester City were enduring a rather inconsistent campaign under Claude Puel but the Foxes came into the game high on confidence following a 1-0 victory over Chelsea in their previous outing.
Man City, on the other hand, arrived at the King Power Stadium on the back of a shock 3-2 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace at home, although Pep Guardiola’s side were the outright favourites to claim all three points against Leicester.
Unsurprisingly, Leicester defended in numbers and got bodies behind the ball as Man City stamped their authority in the opening quarter of the game.
It didn’t take long for them to open the scoring though, as Sergio Aguero played Bernardo Silva behind the Foxes’ backline to set up the Portuguese for an easy finish.
However, Leicester responded within just four minutes, as Jamie Vardy’s cross found the run of Marcus Albrighton, who outsmarted Fabian Delph with his clever movement and beat Ederson to score the equaliser. Well, you cannot keep Jamie Vardy out of the action, can you?
Aguero lost his footing numerous times in the final third quite uncharacteristically and Man City failed to score the winner despite enjoying a lot of possession. James Maddison and Hamza Choudhury called Ederson into action a few times but the scores stayed level until the very end.
Some late drama saw Ricardo Pereira fire home a pile driver from just inside the edge of the box to hand Leicester a 2-1 advantage before Man City’s Fabian Delph received the marching orders from the referee.
The game was an eye-opener to all the fans who would have thought that Man City’s loss against Palace was a mere bad day at the office.
2. Man City vs Crystal Palace – 22nd December
Man City had only lost a single game in the Premier League season, which was against Chelsea, when they played host to Crystal Palace at the Etihad on 22nd December and with Roy Hodgson’s side struggling in the lower reaches of the table, the Citizens were the clear favourites.
Pep Guardiola’s side kept Palace under the cosh in the opening stages of the game and Fabian Delph’s cross was headed in by Ilkay Gundogan, who gave City the lead in the 27th minute.
Palace, however, found an instant reply as Wilfried Zaha’s dazzling run followed by McArthur’s clever pass allowed Jeffrey Schlupp to equalise with a clinical finish.
The match turned out to be closer than expected and a moment of sheer brilliance from Andros Townsend turned the game in Palace’s favour. The former Spurs man put his magical left foot through the ball from a long way outside the box but his thunderous effort evaded the fingertips of Ederson, thus putting Palace 2-1 up before half-time.
Townsend hit the post early in the second half and Max Meyer, in an attempt to score from the rebound, was brought down inside the box by a reckless challenge from Kyle Walker, prompting referee Andre Marriner to point to the penalty spot. Luka Milivojevic buried the penalty kick to give Palace an unlikely 3-1 lead.
De Bruyne made it 3-2 with a cross that luckily sailed over the head of Guaita and Leroy Sane hit the post later on but the Eagles did enough to hold on to their lead for a famous win.
3. Wolves vs Chelsea – 6th December
Premier League newcomers Wolves impressed one and all with their character and resilience but as a matter of fact, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were going through a patchy period when they played host to Chelsea on 6th December.
Wolves came into the game on the back of miserable defeats at the hands of Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, and the Black Country outfit were under pressure to justify that their flying start to the campaign wasn’t a mere flash in the pan.
Things didn’t go according to plan for Wolves though, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s powerful effort from 25 yards was headed into his own net by home captain Conor Coady just 18 minutes into the game.
Both teams failed to produce anything spectacular in the first half but Chelsea went into the interval with a 1-0 lead.
However, Wolves staged a remarkable comeback following the restart, as two quick goals from Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez in the space of just four minutes proved to be the turning point in the clash.
Wolves ultimately won the game 2-1 and Nuno Santo’s lion-hearted warriors went on to register impressive victories over the likes of Man United, Spurs and Liverpool thereafter.
4. Newcastle United vs Man City – 31st January
Pep Guardiola sat in the dugout for his 100th Premier League game, as Newcastle United played host to defending champions Man City towards the end of January.
With Man City and Liverpool going hammer and tongs at each other in a bid to get the upper hand in the title race, this was always going to be a must-win game for the Citizens and they were the definitely the strong favourites against Rafael Benitez’s unit.
And it looked like the travelling fans were in for an absolute feast when Sergio Aguero put the visitors 1-0 ahead just 24 seconds into the game. City dictated the play in the first half and they could have had the second goal just at the stroke of the interval, only for David Silva’s attempt to be blocked by Florian Lejeune.
Man City upped the ante after the restart and Martin Dubravka was called into action numerous times early in the second half, as Sterling, Sane and David Silva all had attempts on goal.
However, in a twist of fate, Newcastle made City pay for their missed chances and equalised in the 66th minute. Salomon Rondon got in front of John Stones and volleyed it straight into the net after a bit of a scramble in the final third.
City went all out in pursuit of the winner but it was Newcastle who had the last laugh and pulled off a massive upset.
Fernandinho’s challenge on Sean Longstaff was deemed worthy of a penalty and Matt Ritchie stepped up to send Ederson the wrong way, thus making it 2-1 with just 10 minutes left to play. The 2-1 victory meant that Newcastle registered their first victory over Man City in the Premier League since 2005.
5. Man United vs Cardiff City – 12th May
Man United thrashed Cardiff City 5-1 in December in what was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge as the caretaker manager of the Red Devils. However, the tides turned dramatically when an already-relegated Cardiff City travelled to Old Trafford to take on United in the final game of the campaign.
Marcus Rashford missed a couple of promising chances and Neil Warnock’s side drew first blood. Diogo Dalot’s rather tame looking challenge on Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was deemed worthy of a penalty by referee Jonathan Moss for some unknown reason and Mendez-Laing stepped up to make it 1-0 from the spot.
United continued to miss chances and Mason Greenwood saw his shot get tipped on to the post by Neil Etheridge.
Things turned from bad to worse in the second half for United when Josh Murphy picked out Mendez-Laing’s run at the far post with an accurate cross following a dazzling run, and Cardiff took a 2-0 lead.
It didn’t turn out to be a happy outing for Solskjer against his old club, although the Bluebirds ended their campaign on a high. Cardiff City registered their first victory over Man United since 1960 and first at Old Trafford since 1954.
2 Instances which prove that money in the Premier League flows like water these days
Leicester spend £30m on Ayoze Perez – Other instances which show that money in the PL flows like water these days
The 2019 summer transfer window is already in full swing and as the deadline day in August draws closer, the excitement only gets bigger.
This might be the off-season in club football in Europe but the massive amount of money involved in the transfer dealings certainly evoke a lot of excitement amongst the fans.
It is a no-brainer that football is no longer a poor man’s game and as a matter of fact, the abundance of cash involved in transfer dealings nowadays often looks crazy to a layman’s eyes.
Things were hardly the same 20 years ago when a fee of £4-5million was considered as a fortune but now, with the involvement of several multi-billion dollar business groups in the game, that kind of money is nothing more than a mere drop in the ocean.
To say that the involvement of large amounts of money in football has changed the complexion of the game over the years, particularly since the turn of the century, would be an understatement.
Realistically, it has completely transformed the fortune of the beautiful game, both in a negative as well as in a positive sense, with even the lesser clubs in the top-five leagues of Europe not hesitating to fork out millions to bring in top talents from across the world.
Indeed, the involvement of finances in football has escalated exponentially over the years and that has certainly had a profound impact on the level of competition.
As far as the hype surrounding the 2019 summer window is concerned, the likes of Man City and Spurs have broken their transfer records with the big-money acquisitions of Rodri and Tanguy Ndombele respectively for
£62.8million and £60million, while Man United have also spent big to sign Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Cyrstal Palace.
Agreed, the transfer fee involved in each negotiation depends on a number of factors, ranging from the player’s potential, profile, past records, injury-related issues and so on.
However, leaving aside the top-six in the Premier League, Leicester City have made eyeballs turn with the £30million signing of Ayoze Perez from Newcastle United, which does justify the fact that the Premier League sides are spendthrift these days.
With all due respect to Perez’s achievements at Newcastle, one cannot help but wonder if Leicester have paid over the odds to bring the Spaniard to the club this summer.
A strike rate of 48 goals in 195 games, considering that the player came in as a rookie from the Spanish second-tier five years ago, looks pretty decent on paper, but the Foxes’ decision to fork out £30million looks quite outrageous.
We have all seen over the years that there is nothing so special about Ayoze Perez, and not denying the fact that he is a decent enough Premier League forward, a fee in the region of £15-20million would have applied a touch of logic to the move.
Having spent a paltry £1.5million to bring Perez to the Premier League five years ago, Newcastle have made a huge profit of £28.5m from the Spaniard’s sale to Leicester, more than 20 times the money they had originally invested in him. These numbers are beyond belief.
That, however, isn’t the only instance of some insane flow of cash in modern-day football, with Atletico Madrid shelling out £113million to complete a deal for the 19-year-old Joao Felix from Benfica this summer.
It is totally understandable that he is regarded as once-in-a-generation sort of talent but he is still only 19 and has been around in senior football for not more than a season.
Compare that to the thrifty amount Man United had spent to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to the Premier League from Sporting Lisbon back in 2003 and the difference is telling.
Whether or not this bubble is going to burst somewhere down the line is a topic that can be put up for debate, however, let us take a look at a few instances in the Premier League this summer which do justice to the statement that money is, indeed, crazy.
1. Man United signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka for £50 million
Wan-Bissaka was always going to be a hot property in the summer transfer window following his consistently impressive performances at Crystal Palace in the Premier League this past season.
The 21-year-old right-back was clearly a hot property and it is Man United who have got hold of the Eagles graduate.
We all saw how he outperformed some of the more established right-backs in the Premier League last season and few would dare to argue against his talent and potential.
However, spending £50million on a player with the experience of just a single top-flight season under his belt can be regarded as completely outrageous.
Yes, Man United desperately needed a new right-back and that was probably the main reason why they paid over the odds to get their hands on Wan-Bissaka. The fact is that he is not yet an England international.
2. Marcus Rashford signing a new
With 13 goals in all competitions last season, Marcus Rashford showed exactly why he is held in such high regard by the Old Trafford hierarchy.
The 21-year-old struggled to hit great heights under Jose Mourinho but he rediscovered his mojo under Solskjaer and scored some crucial goals for the Red Devils, especially towards the end of the campaign.
Rashford is one of the highly-rated burgeoning young talents in the Premier League but he has been in that bracket for two or three seasons now, without taking significant steps towards fulfilling his potential.
That has a lot to do with the managerial instability at Old Trafford following Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, however, one cannot help but wonder as to why United increased their wage bill with extortionate wages.
With all due respect to his talent and potential, Rashford is still very much in the developmental phase of his career and is not a sure starter for the club in the Premier League week in week out, which means that offering massive wages to the 21-year-old hardly makes sense.
Given United’s heritage and reputation in English football, it is a shame that they are having to bribe players with such insane wages to keep them at the club.
Talking tactics – How Solskjaer can extract the best out of Man United’s potential £45m new arrival Wan-Bissaka
Manchester United opinion: How Solskjaer can use Aaron Wan-Bissaka tactically
After days of speculation, it looks like Manchester United have agreed on a fee with Crystal Palace for the signature of full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
If the deal is completed as expected, it could cost United around £45m plus add-ons, pushing the overall price of the player around £50m. There is no sell-on clause agreed by the club as well, according to the Guardian.
On paper, it does seem like the Red Devils have overspent on a player that has played just one full season in the Premier League. However, their situation at right-back has been a cause for concern. In that sense, this is not a bad signing, ignoring the “price-tag talk.”
Ashley Young, a converted full-back, was really struggling and Diogo Dalot, who United signed last summer, is still taking his time to adjust to new surroundings in England.
With Wan-Bissaka looking set to arrive and take over the right-back spot, we can expect defensive solidity and poise from him week in week out, which is something Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his men could do with.
Below, let’s analyse Wan-Bissaka’s game in detail and talk about how Ole can use him in two different ways:
Player Analysis and integration – Aaron Wan-Bissaka
In 42 Premier League appearances so far, Aaron Wan-Bissaka has shown that he is good when it comes to defending and making vital tackles.
However, there are two ways of looking at it. The first being the team he played for – Crystal Palace. Under Roy Hodgson, they are a team who prefer sitting in, defending deep and then attack on the counter. Full-backs are like wide centre-backs, whose main job is to defend rather than join attacks.
Looking at his defensive numbers, the 21-year-old has a tackle success rate of 68%, which is the highest in the league during the last 12 months. He made 244 ball recoveries and won 302 duels, averaging up to six and seven per game respectively.
Furthermore, the young Englishman is tall and physically strong, meaning beating him in the air is no mean feat as well. He won 52 aerial duels and doesn’t get robbed off possession.
His defensive reading of the game is spot on at most times, with 99 interceptions at an average of 2.5 per game.
However, while Wan-Bissaka’s defensive numbers are excellent, his returns going forward aren’t too great. With only four big chances created in 42 appearances and a crossing accuracy of a meagre 21%, we can say that his strong suit is defending. (Source: Premier League Stats)
The other facet to this is that he has so far played in a team which doesn’t encourage full-backs to try things in the final third. In fact, it’s a catchy situation. However, one thing which is clear is that he is not good at crossing the ball and has made a few bad decisions in the final third.
Thus, keeping all these things in mind, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could use him in two different ways. The first can be as an orthodox right-back in big away games, where the full-backs are not required to go very high.
The second is playing the youngster as a wide centre-back in a three-at-the-back formation. With him being defensively strong and aerially good, the wide centre-back role could really suit his style of play to perfection.
That will allow the manager to play Dalot as an attacking right wing-back with an assurance that Wan-Bissaka is back there covering the spaces on the counter-attack.
All in all, spending £50m on a fairly untested player is an act of slight desperation by Manchester United. But Aaron Wan-Bissaka does suit Solskjaer’s model, which is to sign young players with potential and develop them at the club.
Since he is defensively sound, the manager can change his system a bit and make the best use of the youngster.
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