Six things we learned as Manchester United beat Crystal Palace
Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Old Trafford to record a second successive Premier League victory.
Here is a look at six things we learned from Ralf Rangnick’s first game in charge…
Ralf Rangnick stated in his first press conference that his desire was for Manchester United to start controlling games.
He referenced the win over Arsenal as chaotic, along with the draw at Chelsea and defeats to City and Liverpool.
Against Palace, United gave him what he wanted. The team controlled the game, playing the majority of it in Crystal Palace’s half.
The team were quick to win the ball back and made a strong statement in the opening 10 minutes of how Rangnick wanted his side to play. United finished the first half with 66 per cent possession.
It was an instant impact from Rangnick on how he was able to get the team playing, remarkable considering the side had just two training sessions with him before this game.
Palace’s desire to play out from the back played into United’s hands with Rangnick’s desire for his team to press the opponents.
The only struggle was the ability to find a cutting edge, with United finding it tough to convert possession dominance into creating clear cut scoring opportunities.
One of the ways United tried to control possession was by moving Jadon Sancho into a central attacking role as often as possible to overwhelm Palace.
Sancho would still go out wide from side to side as often as possible, but he was often seen in possession in a central role, trying to create chances.
Bruno Fernandes drifted wide at times too, with United almost deploying a 4-2-2-2, with Rashford and Ronaldo supported by Fernandes and Sancho roaming in front of Fred and McTominay.
Sancho’s central role was crucial in helping United to win the ball back so frequently and maintain possession. He was withdrawn midway through the second half for Mason Greenwood.
Full-backs a symbol of United change
Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot currently hold the baton at full-back and Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have to work to win their places back.
This was the fourth game in a row Telles has started, and the second for Dalot. Both players were harshly overlooked under Solskjaer, and they have become a symbol of the way United have changed since the Norwegian departed.
Luke Shaw did not even make the squad for this game, and his fitness battle has provided Telles with an opportunity he seems determined to grasp.
Wan-Bissaka was back with the squad but had to settle for a place on the bench after Dalot’s solid display against Arsenal in midweek.
Both players got forward well against Palace to join United’s attack and provide width sacrificed by the tactical switch which saw Sancho play more centrally. Dalot came close to scoring at the end of the first half after an excellent team move, while Telles hit the bar in the second half from a free-kick.
Fred scores rare opener
Manchester United’s first goal of the Ralf Rangnick era was scored by… Fred. Who would have predicted that?
The Brazilian curled in a shot in the 81st minute after being set up by Mason Greenwood.
This was Fred’s second goal of the season, tying his best ever return for the club – with more than half of the campaign still to go.
Fred played a crucial role in United’s win over Arsenal, with an assist, and also winning the decisive penalty, and this strike showed he can play a major part under Rangnick over the next few months.
First Old Trafford clean sheet
This was the first clean sheet Manchester United had kept at Old Trafford this season.
Previous clean sheets had come away at Wolves, Tottenham, and Villarreal.
Crystal Palace were not the most creative or imposing side to visit and played for a point they did not quite get, but this was still progress, defensively.
The clean sheet spoke to the control United had of the game and this solid display gives Rangnick a base to build from. It was the calm performance he was looking for.
Anthony Elanga makes an appearance
Before the game we noted Elanga was in United’s first team squad after seemingly impressing Rangnick in training.
The boss brought Elanga on for the final 15 minutes, his second appearance of the season and his first in the Premier League since May.
This was invaluable experience for the 19-year-old and he will fancy his chances of more minutes in the Champions League in midweek, with United already having wrapped up top spot.
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