Every publication in all of England put it best – Manchester United were “stunned” this afternoon against Crystal Palace. It was a first league defeat against the visitors since 1989 for the Reds, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men conceded an injury-time goal from Patrick van Aanholt in spectacular fashion – an ode to the Manchester United of old. So what did the Eagles’ win over the Red Devils tell us, other than ‘Roy Division’ stickers are now being plastered on lampposts near the ground.
Penalties Must Improve
Manchester United fans were engrossed in a ridiculous-yet-hot debate last week regarding the penalty situation with Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford (media conversation spearheaded by Gary Neville, of course), but this week’s conversation is, and quite frankly should have been, regarding the level of quality – with respect to our penalty taking. Pogba and Rashford might have been unfairly treated with the unnecessary pressure regarding the “leadership” aspect of penalties, but one thing is certain – both have missed penalties taken this season. With a long season ahead, we must do everything possible to ensure that goals are scored, in whatever shape or form, and as such something needs to be done to address this issue – and fast.
Jesse Lingard’s Ultimatum, Continued.
I wrote in depth last week after the match against Wolves about the season of ultimatum for Jesse Lingard, and while I didn’t expect Lingard to turn up with a 9/10 performance out of nowhere, I wanted to see something change from our current No. 10. Unfortunately, we did not see much of a difference, as Lingard found himself running around helplessly trying to break down the rigid, compact Crystal Palace defensive backline.
In Lingard’s defense, an attacking intent is a team effort – his contribution alone should not be the sole reason that Manchester United could not find an answer against Hodgson’s men, but if Ole is going to continue to operate with Lingard as a 10, he’ll need to figure out a scenario wherein his entire front 3/4 is effective – not just Rashford/Martial/James. Perhaps a return to the bench and a return for Juan Mata in his favored No. 10 role should be back on the cards? We shall see.
Luke Shaw Must Improve
Just a few seasons ago, a young English defender by the name of Luke Shaw was making lung-busting runs down the left-flank and combining beautifully with a certain Memphis Depay. The duo looked like the breath of fresh attacking air that Manchester United fans have been dying to see for a long time – until Luke Shaw’s unfortunate leg break, and consequently Memphis’ departure from Old Trafford.
As much as it pains me to type the previous paragraph – that was years ago, and now is now. Manchester United have been sorely lacking defensively for years now, and while Luke Shaw might have been the shining light in an otherwise flat and gross back four, he now seems to be the weakest link. Perhaps the spectacular performance of Aaron Wan Bissaka or the immediacy of leadership and quality in Harry Maguire might be overshadowing his importance, but Shaw’s inability to produce defensive numbers is worrisome. It could be argued Ashley Young was actually better when he replaced the former Southampton defender. Shaw’s performance against Palace wasn’t much to write home about, but his inconsistencies and injury track record is starting to smell awfully familiar to that of Phil Jones during his early years at United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s start in his first full season as manager is now in full swing, and while fans had expected a “transition” season to occur at some point, the idea of potentially finishing in a position below 6th again is a nightmare that all Reds want to forget.
Being an optimist myself, it is difficult to imagine that Manchester United will finish below 6th, but if this game against Crystal Palace was anything to go by, the result showed us that any team can now come to Old Trafford with a good chance of producing some sort of result.
Crystal Palace started their campaign with a draw against Everton, followed by an awful loss against Sheffield United. I managed to catch a bit of their performance in the latter match, and I must say, Hodgson’s men were dreadful.
And yet somehow, they came to Old Trafford and produced a solid, well-grounded performance – working as a team defensively and attacking with intent (and with end-product), granted opportunities being few in count.
If Ole is to stamp his name on his time at Manchester United, he must be able to get something out of this team, and fast. The title of being a “transition period” might give the once-baby-faced-assassin a bit of breathing room, but if he is to live up to the name of being awarded with the title as Manager of Manchester United, he must be able to produce with a solid XI that can provide some sort of consistency in output.
Racist Abuse Must Stop
Paul Pogba received racist abuse from the miserable, degenerate folks on social media platforms, which prompted the club to meet with representatives from leading social media giants Facebook and Twitter. As their meeting was scheduled for the upcoming week, Rashford missed a penalty – and the abuse resumed.
The result against Crystal Palace was poor and sub-par, but that does not give any human being the right to spit harmful abuse towards any other individual. As I always say, it is fair for us fans to criticize players for their performances, but to hurl offensive, disgusting comments at young professionals is unacceptable. We all must do better.