In an otherwise uneventful game, a smashing strike from Andersen gave the Eagles that soaring feeling as they once again win at Old Trafford under the tutelage of Roy Hodgson. Hojlund had the best chance for the Red Devils but Mitchell cleared off the line. Outside of that, it was just huffing and puffing from Man Utd. It was more similar to the performance against Burnley than it was against Palace in the Carabao Cup. The pressure is mounting on the manager as boos rang around the ground when the referee signalled the end of the game.
Huff and puff and… huff and puff and…
The nature of Man Utd’s standing in the world of football means that more often than not, the Red Devils will have to be breaking down low blocks. It is something that they have not been very good at doing as a collective for quite a long time. Against this opposition, just a few days ago, it was a performance whereby it was the slick, quick passing that was able to disorganise the Eagles, albeit against a heavily rotated XI.
The changes in both XIs were obviously going to produce a different type of game but that was expected in the fact that Crystal Palace would be a much more difficult outfit to break down than they were on Tuesday night. However, the changes we made were perhaps as much of a factor and show how far there is to go with the gelling of the team. Bruno came in for Hannibal and what struck me quite clearly was the distinct lack of build up down the right hand side compared to the Carling Cup game. Of course, Hughes came in for Riedewald but the lack of ball reception from Bruno in that right half space really limited the amount we were able to progress down that side. It was the only change to combinations on the right.
Down the left, Amrabat continued in the left back role, which is essentially a free role but for a defensive player instead. He was constantly taking up positions in the middle of the park. The problem was that Lindelof was not pushing out far enough to the left to properly balance the back line and giving enough spread in build up. Also, with the inversion from left back, it meant that someone else had to provide the left hand side second phase presence. Invariably in that first half, it seemed to be Rashford dropping far too deep to pick up the ball.
On one occasion, Rashford first time pass in behind presented a great opportunity for Hojlund but it made no sense to have him doing this rather than Mount. On Tuesday, Garnacho hardly had to drop down to that level because Mount was picking up that position. Why it changed so much today is quite strange considering both wingers would ideally like to start high up as possible to get a 1v1 against their full back. The Argentine coming on you saw the intention to do so, so why was Rashford doing it?
One of those reasons could be the fact that a lot has been made of Rashford being selfish when a better opportunities to put someone else through have been presented. It is something that has been put at his door for as long as he has played at United.
The problem is that he has now been taken hostage by decision paralysis. Often times today, he waited too long to make a decision and if he did make a decision, it was to either tip toe through bodies centrally or pass it off to a team mate when a shot or driving down the line would have been the much simpler decision. Even then, the decision just had to be made earlier. There will always be talk about what should have been done if a decision made doesn’t result in the desired outcome but clearly, this criticism has gotten to Rashford.
The difference that Garnacho made when coming on simply from doing what he could in making a decision quickly and making sure he got the byline or passed off for the overlap made a difference between himself and Rashford, even if that difference was not enough for the win.