If United made things as easy as they should be, maybe the fans wouldn’t love them as much. It started so swimmingly as a raised Hughes arm was adjudged to have stop a Rashford cross. Bruno would convert his first PL penalty since 2020/21. I know, a very long time. He only taken two in that time frame but missed two. The rest of the first half was pretty much all United without it being onslaught on the Crystal Palace goal. The second half started sloppy and until the goal, a slick move that ended with Rashford tapping it in, it should have been an easy ride to the finish. Then came a turning point. In the midst of argy bargies, Casemiro was adjudged to have gripped Hughes throat violently enough to be sent off. This gave Palace the confidence and a skewed Doucoure shot found its way to Schlupp who diverted it past De Gea. The rest of the game was United having their back to their wall and fortunately, they were able to come out of it the other side. Both games this season, Casemiro has had a moment vs Palace and whilst it may have indirectly cost us a few weeks ago, we managed to get over the line today. Roll on the Roses Derby.
Enhanced rather than the enhancements
If there has been something that has been a feature of watching United over the past decade since Ferguson went off into the sunset, it is the fact that many felt that the talent within the team has been held back by the manager in charge. In all areas of the pitch but that was particularly prevalent in the attacking areas as we had coaches who seemed to stunt that area quite remarkably. The days of Ole would have you thinking at times that it couldn’t be as bad but the fact that United were unable to truly dominate and pierce through low block defences with any regularity showed the lack of coaching that was being afforded to these players.
At the moment, the situation is reversed. For the first time in a few years, the attacking talent at United is not of the quality that we have gotten used to. Outside of Marcus Rashford, the other options do not fill you with the confidence that they can produce genuine moments of quality reliably. Garnacho can light things up but expecting any sort of consistency from an 18 year old is just weighing too much on the kids’ shoulders. Martial is suffering the effects of the last 2 and half seasons of his career as he has been littered with injured that makes him as unreliable on the pitch as he was in the minutes he was playing (apparently carrying an injury). Bruno Fernandes, whilst improving in his general play, has lost the productivity he was known for in his first two seasons. In recent times, he has found it a bit more but not enough where he can add the supplementary numbers to Rashford to make up the attack.
Antony has had half a season and in terms of bringing up the numbers, he doesn’t give me any confidence that he can contribute heavily in that regard. This is despite the fact the most shining light of his game has been the fact he is able cut in on his left foot to try to deliver a curling effort into the far corner. But, what is more worrying, is the fact that his approach play is nothing to write home about either. He is neat and tidy enough, while his left footedness does bring a balance and variety in our attack. So much so that United genuinely attack down both sides of the pitch, whereas it was mainly concentrated down the left. But being a balancing act is not enough for the money we have invested into the Brazilian. The 2nd goal was an example of the type of structure that Ten Hag has brought in where you can see that the system is contributing more to the attacking of Man Utd more so than the personnel out there. The good connections and associative play to work the ball across the pitch to the spare man in Shaw to cross into Rashford, where he was able to slot it in, in very much the same spot that he done against Man City.
The problem when you have a player as influential as Casemiro has been, is that when they missing, it can drag you down as much as it lifts you up with their presence. A stupid scuffle that started from little means now that Casemiro is going to miss the next two Leeds game and the home tie against Leicester. The signing of Sabitzer is perhaps even more important now given that Eriksen and McTominay are both out with mid to long term injuries. It was stupid from the Brazilian to even get as involved as he did and luckily the boys were able to bring it home, even if there were multiple hairy moments towards the end of the match.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Martinez. He is a bastion of consistency and the fact it is consistency with the most amounts of quality, it just enshrines his standing in this Man Utd team. When we went down to 10 men, he was the one carrying the fight as much as anyone. Any type of defending, with positional excellence as much as the obvious interceptions and tackling, are what sets him apart from your run of the mill defenders. As much as my nails were down to the nub from all the biting, it was pleasure to watch him close out the game for us as a stunning centre back.