1. It’s safe to say I’ve watched more enjoyable games of football but we got the job done without really getting out of second gear, so we can’t complain too much. Crystal Palace started the day four places above the relegation zone, so of course we were favourites to win at Old Trafford, but there are no guaranteed 3 points against anyone, particularly without Sir Alex Ferguson, so I’m happy to get the win. When you consider we’re now on the same points as Chelsea and City, two teams all the media have predicted will finish above us, despite us playing Chelsea, Liverpool Swansea and Palace, compared to City’s fixtures against Hull, Cardiff, Stoke and Newcastle, we’re looking good.
2. The big disappointment of the day was seeing Anderson in the starting line-up. At the beginning of every new season it’s hard to dismiss that nagging sense of optimism that this year might be the one for him to fulfil his potential, but he always manages to disappoint you. He contributed nothing to the game really against totally mediocre opponents. With an hour played, David Moyes finally decided enough was enough when Ando fell on his arse in the midst of a United attack. With over an hour played, the Brazilian completed 32 passes.
3. The biggest excitement of the day was probably seeing our new signing, Marouane Fellaini, for the first time. He was welcomed with a big cheer when he replaced Anderson and every subsequent touch got some sort of reaction from the crowd. It’s impressive that in half an hour, Fellaini managed to complete 41 passes. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s a handy way of showing just how much more the Belgian was involved in our game in comparison to Anderson. In his limited time on the pitch, he showed off his passing ability, keenness to tackle, as well as having a good effort on goal. When he played against us, I dreaded us conceding corners. It’s satisfying to think that opponents will be shitting themselves when they see Van Persie running to the corner flag and Fellaini waiting in the box. Even if he just draws defenders near him to allow our other players more space, I’ll be happy. It’s clear Fellaini wasn’t a transfer priority but he is certainly the type of player that we need. I look forward to seeing him start alongside Carrick in future games. I can’t believe we’ve actually bought a midfielder! And what do you think of the chant, circulated only on the Internet so far, to Ace of Base’s ‘All That She Wants’? “All that we want, Marouane Fellaini, he’ll score tomorrow, all that we want, Marouane Fellaini, woaah.”
4. Ashley Young is an unpopular player amongst the fans and did nothing yesterday to endear himself to the support. Early in to the game he was booked for diving, after throwing his trailing leg in to the defender. He didn’t complain, at all, suggesting he knew what he was guilty of. He then went on to win the penalty that put United 1-0 up and saw Palace go down to ten men, but replays showed the foul began outside the area. Given that Young went down well in to the area, the ref can hardly be blamed for awarding the penalty, but we were fortunate. As for the red card, a clear goalscoring opportunity was denied, so that was the right decision. It’s a shame that after the game Moyes argued the decision was correct because Dikgacoi was the “last man”. FIFA rules removed the term “last man” years ago, given the “last man” can make a foul without preventing a player from an opportunity to school (if at the corner flag, for example). Come on Dave, let’s learn the rules of the game eh.
5. I was surprised to see the inclusion of Fabio and Anderson in the starting XI, but I was more surprised to see Adnan Januzaj on the bench. Not because he didn’t deserve his place there but because he’s only 18-years-old and I hadn’t anticipated him being given a chance so early in to the season. The youngster was subbed on and played with bags of confidence though. United looked far more threatening down the left wing for the last 20 minutes than they had all game with Young. This lad is quality and I am desperate to see him fulfil his potential at United.
6. One of the best moves of the game came when Michael Carrick won the ball, pulled off a delightful Maradonna turn, before Rooney played in a perfect ball to Van Persie. He volleyed against the crossbar but had that gone in it would have been am early contender for goal of the season. Van Persie took his penalty well though and it’s great to see him on the scoresheet again. 3 goals in 4 games.
7. I was surprised to see Antonio Valencia criticised after the game even though I can acknowledge his efforts had little end product. If we look at the stats, he completed more final third balls than anyone on the pitch, but his performance was about more than that for me. Maybe I notice it more because I sit a few rows up from the touchline on the wing he attacks in the second half. Last season the frustration over Valencia grew and grew, despite me being a big fan of his, after he seemed to totally lose his bottle. He wouldn’t run at players and became so indecisive that he would be tackled before he made his mind up on what to do. He was like a goldfish, seemingly forgetting where he was and what he was doing (and who he was!), with him just stopping and doing nothing. He wouldn’t cross, pass or run at the defender, but just stand still and wait to be tackled. It was bizarre. Valencia clearly shared our frustration when he superstitiously rejected the #7 shirt after just one season of wearing it. In yesterday’s game, whilst he wasn’t the effective winger of 2010-2011, the difference in him was very noticeable. He was running at the full-back and repeatedly attempted to take him on. His crosses were nowhere near accurate enough but at least he was getting in the position to deliver them. Maybe if you don’t go to the games or don’t sit where I sit, these things wouldn’t be as noticeable, but I can’t tell you just how different he was against Palace compared to the vast majority of his performances last season. Fingers crossed he will keep adding to this.
8. It was great to see Wayne Rooney get on the scoresheet after the fuss of the summer. With the newspapers claiming he would be out for weeks, our striker fulfilled his usual routine of returning much sooner than predicted. He wore a band to protect the gash on his head, cut open by Phil Jones, but it didn’t appear to interfere with his game. This was his first goal since March 19th and the fans ensured it was well received. I still find the reaction from the supporters strange. In the second half he had a brilliant opportunity to score and he fluffed it. This was met with chants of “ROONEY!” from the Stretford End. Applauding the poor attempts of a player who has been desperate to leave us for both City and Chelsea doesn’t sit well with me. Still, his goal to make it 2-0 was special. The goalie maybe could have done better but Rooney did so well to clear the wall and direct the ball in to the bottom corner. But it wouldn’t be a Rooney performance without his obligatory failed chip, when he could have scored easily had he just put his foot through the ball, but his obsession continues. Danny Welbeck’s goal at Swansea probably hasn’t helped.
9. There’s nothing to get too carried away about here but I’m presuming our tepid performance can be blamed on Palace for not giving us a game. City will hopefully bring out the best in our lads, but let’s hope Fellaini and Nani keep Anderson and Young out of the team. It’s good to see Moyes trying out his new players and giving them opportunity to earn their place though. It’s been a decent start but a win at City would really grab people’s attention.