Monday Night Takeaway: Crystal Palace 2-3 Man Utd

in Columnists/Match Coverage/News by

Reaction from United’s late win at Selhurst Park.

T’is confusion

Here’s a big thing; Jose Mourinho is now a culpable individual for United’s team selections, for better or worse. Three transfer windows in and he is the one responsible for the composition of the squad. So quite how Ashley Young and Chris Smalling continue to start is a mystery.

And yet.

For all that deserved criticism, nobody could say this was a negative United side. For all of the deserved criticism about their lack of fluency, even if this is a lack of foresight on the manager’s part, it’s not an obvious reluctance to attack. At 2-0, he went for broke, putting Lingard at right back and going all out attack. The brave reaped the rewards. Mourinho should be congratulated for his endeavour. He should also learn from it.

A defensive mess

We are still reserving judgment on Victor Lindelof and we aren’t going to point the finger at him for the deflection for the goal in the first half. The Swede was exceptional against Chelsea last week and it is entirely possible that even though he was playing with the same partners alongside him, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young’s revert to what is expected of them is enough to drag someone’s performance level down.

Collectively, they were a complete mess in the first twenty minutes and the goal they conceded was coming and richly deserved. The goal conceded from the free-kick was every bit the basic mistake United have made so often this season.

Manchester United cannot afford to be this dreadful – and that is not an overstatement – in defence if they have serious ambitions of challenging for the league next season.

Pedestrian

By far the biggest concern from Selhurst Park, bigger than the defensive worries, was the lethargic and unimpressive response in the first half. Paul Pogba was clearly having an off day with his passing. That is forgivable. Strolling around the pitch, as United were doing for most of the first half, was not forgivable. At the very least, when losing, there must be urgency to get back in the game. Losing is not unacceptable, even losing to a relegation threatened side, but going down so meekly is completely unacceptable.

The second half performance corrected this, as did some savvy changes, but this is enough evidence to say that United’s players don’t have it within themselves to kick themselves into gear. After the euphoria of such a win, that should be the next prominent thought. United have been, too often, dreadful in first halves, particularly away from home of late.

Fixing a broke thing

Juan Mata’s cameo appearance only justified the argument we’ve been making on the podcast. United had such a great rhythm in away games before Alexis Sanchez’s arrival, a rhythm they were able to tap into when desperately chasing the game tonight. Perhaps the attacking side of Mourinho’s selection in away games deserves a little patience as the search for a solution continues, but Mata’s contribution at least gives some credence to the idea that it should be up to Sanchez to work his way in rather than one of the previously well-performing stars to give up their place.

Wayne Barton is an author and has worked with numerous Manchester United icons. He ghost wrote the autobiographies of Brian Greenhoff, Gordon Hill, Danny Higginbotham, Mick Duxbury and Clayton Blackmore. He is the football columnist for international broadcaster eirSport.

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