Upon return from the international break, Manchester United played out a dire, lifeless goalless draw at Old Trafford with Crystal Palace and contributing writer, Nathan Quao, has the pointers from the tie.
Dire, Dreary, Disastrous
For a team that was hoping to bounce back from the loss in the derby, Man United’s output against Crystal Palace was simply woeful.
The visitors were expected to give it everything they had and the home side was expected to use anger from losing to Man City to get their way, pick the points and get ready for the rest of the campaign.
But that did not happen.
Rather, as the game went on, the errors, the sloppy play, the general lack of fight, quality, class and intelligence became more pronounced and from a fan’s perspective, it was really sickening to watch.
And these qualities were seen in almost every player on the field.
Ashley Young did not get a single cross right on the day and his approach play was even worse. He was very easy to read and Aaron Wan-Bissaka had fun playing against him.
Paul Pogba failed to connect any important through pass and Jesse Lingard gave zero for all the running around he did.
Anthony Martial looked off and he took all the wrong decisions every time there was an opening to take the right one.
Nemanja Matic looked spent as the game travelled and one wondered whether or not there were no replacements on hand.
Every now and again, Chris Smalling was caught out of position (like it always happens) as Palace broke forward and he did not seem to understand the dangers of miscalculations.
Romelu Lukaku yielded no benefit whatsoever.
The performance was simply poor.
Lindelof the Shining Swede
While everyone was out on the pitch making a mess of things, Victor Lindelof was the only player who sought to honour his end of the bargain but even he did not have a stellar game.
He read most of the situations very well and he was on hand to stop an attack from causing problems.
His bravery to play through an injury was exemplary even though, it was dangerous.
He showed the fighting spirit that the rest of the team does not have at the moment.
Of course, there were the odd moments of indecision when he did not grasp what was going around him.
For the chance that Andros Townsend missed in the second half, everything germinated from Lindelof’s missed tackle on Zaha.
He needs to do better in that department especially when his partner, Chris Smalling, is not one to put your hopes in when it comes to a clean and smart defensive job.
But he can look at his showing and add it to the positive ones he has put together in the last few games.
Progress is needed and fast
The reality of the result against Crystal Palace is that Man United are short of quality in so many important positions.
The first one is the centre-forward area.
Lukaku has not scored at Old Trafford since March and yet, there are no replacements for him. It is clear that he is struggling at the moment and no one knows when he will rediscover his form but there is no one to fill the gap and get the goals.
It is obvious that Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez will be mentioned as alternatives but they have shown that they cannot keep scoring on a regular basis.
Martial’s inconsistent side showed up against Palace while Sanchez still looks like he is past his best. Rashford’s previous displays underline the lack of skill, subtlety and tact needed to thrive as a striker.
Ashley Young’s poor performance only goes to show that the full-back area needs some sorting.
Man United are struggling from the wide areas both in terms of proper, dangerous pace and the delivery to the forwards.
Crosses need to have an impact and they must find their targets. Granted, men need to run more into the box but quality delivery will always cause problems for the opposition and hand opportunities for players to score.
At the moment, all Man United fans are getting are the predictable and ineffective feints from Young and the crosses which go nowhere and give almost nothing. Add these to the incomprehensible habit (which has happened very often) of needless fouling and stopping to complain to officials for fouls while the play is still rolling.
The playing body needs a heavy overhaul very soon. And while that is happening, the coaching must improve too. The man in charge must get things to be better or else, someone else must be brought in to steer the forward march to better things.
The gap is widening. The team is being left behind by others making giant strides. It is time for action!!!