Devils Stumble Through Palace
Despite not yet having registered a win on the road, Louis van Gaal would have been looking to home form to carry his team into the international break on a high when they met Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Manchester United did just that, winning 1-0 courtesy of a Juan Mata goal on 67 minutes to secure their fourth win in the last five fixtures at home.
However, this United side has failed to live up to the hype that followed the huge summer outlay on world-class players like Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao. It does not help that the Argentine has severely struggled for form since bursting onto the scene in his opening few games and the Colombian is spent a lot of time on the physio’s table.
Van Gaal was also using the eleventh centre back combination of his time at the club with Daley Blind and Paddy McNair lining up in front of David De Gea.
The game started off, as many of United’s have this season, with the visitors feeling they could get something from the wounded giant and they nearly did before the interval.
The home side dominated possession and threatened from set-pieces, as one would expect from a team with Marouane Fellaini hanging around the box, but it was Palace who came closest in the first half. Frazier Campbell found himself one-on-one with De Gea and attempted an ambitious lob but his effort sailed over the top of the net.
Neil Warnock’s men continued to frustrate the hosts in the second half until the hour-mark when van Gaal brought Mata on. The scintillating Spaniard has failed to reproduce his best form of late but shortly after coming on it was he who struck the winner from 20 yards.
Mata then came close to a second towards the end of proceedings when he rattled the bar but United already had the game wrapped up.
On the face of it, three points is a good result but the home side had 72% of the possession, managed 11 corners and 23 shots. However, only five of those shots were on target which shows a clear lack of goal-threat up front with Robin van Persie struggling to find the form he showed in his first season at Old Trafford.
Di Maria once again failed to impress as all 12 of his attempted crosses were blocked and, with a success rate of only 16.9% before kick-off, it may be time to drop the Premier League’s record signing until he shows signs of improving.
Following the international break, United take on Arsenal who will surely prove a far more destructive force than Palace. Warnock will lead his men out at Selhurst Park where they will face a badly injured Liverpool who are going through a dry spell in front of goal themselves.