Sunday, 9 November 2014

Super Sub Mata.

Manchester United 1  Crystal Palace 0

Following the narrow defeat last week at the hands of Manchester City the only objective was to beat Crystal Palace at Old Trafford and get back to winning ways. 

I suppose a win is a win and the three points are the main target at the end of the day but Palace are a team who are tipped for the drop so it should have been a routine win for the reds.

Once again, Manchester United did it the hard way. 

It was a dire goalless first half in which the only clear cut chance was created by the excellent Luke Shaw, who followed a solo run from his own half with a shot that was saved by the Palace keeper, Speroni. In fact, that was the only save he had to make in the first half as United seemed to lack any penetration even though enjoying 80% of the possession.

Due to injuries and suspensions, Louis van Gaal was forced to reshuffle the team yet again.

United starting XI: De Gea, Valencia, Shaw, Blind, Carrick, McNair, Di Maria, Fellaini, van Persie, Rooney and Januzaj.

Blind partnered McNair in the center of defence, Carrick started his first match of the season in midfield behind Rooney and Fellaini. This meant that van Persie was once again alone up front relying on the service from the flanks, which just did not come.

Down the left flank Shaw and Di Maria were linking up well, but the problem was on the opposite wing which saw Januzaj once again struggling to put any decent form or contribution together, even though Valencia, again covering at right back, was doing his best to help him out.

Under par Januzaj.
Januzaj is flattering to deceive at the moment and hasn't contributed anything of note in his last three appearances. He had one shot of note early on and that was it. Is it a question of he had his chance and blew it?

It's a shame as I always remind people I was rallying for him to be used in the team, but after this match I believe he needs to be rested and has to be made to understand his failings and work on his form. He is still young and I'm sure the best will come eventually.

What the team and the match needed in the second half was an injection of urgency, this arrived in the shape of Juan Mata who came on as substitute for Januzaj at the same time that James Wilson replaced the ineffectual Di Maria.

Within a short time of his arrival, Mata had put United into the lead with a left-footed strike that was deflected into the net. He also later had an effort which hit the post.

Mata breaks the deadlock.
The game had come to life, Fellaini, playing his best football since joining United, had a header cleared off the line. However, United made the fans sweat it out again by not finding the killer goal which would have totally ended any hope that Palace had of getting a result.

Instead, like in other games this season, the opposition smelt the weakness in United and the possibility of a goal because we let them have too much of the ball.

It's been a long time since Old Trafford had that fear factor for visiting teams and I can't see it coming back anytime soon.

On a positive note, this result was United's first clean sheet in six games and David De Gea recorded his 50th clean sheet for the side.

DeGea's 50th clean sheet.
Once again, young defender Paddy McNair had an impressive match for the Red Devils, what a player this boy is going to be. The confidence he showed during the match by bringing the ball out of defence and trying to kick start moves was very encouraging.

Some fans are saying that he is only in the side due to the injuries to the first choice defenders, but I believe he should be considered first choice and the others should fight to play alongside him.

I understand that he has a lack of experience, but that is only achieved by playing. When I see his name on the team sheet I have a different feeling of confidence than when I see Evans or the injury-prone Jones.

What McNair needs is an established defender alongside him to learn from, hopefully, next season that player will come.

My choice of man of the match is Luke Shaw, who never stopped running and looks so assured on the ball. He is showing all the qualities that deserved an England call up along with Carrick and Rooney. The only hope is that he can keep fit for long periods of the season.

Man of the match Shaw.
This was United's 4th home win of the season and lifts the reds up into sixth place in the league. Looking at the teams above us I don't see any reason why we can't aim for a top three finish.

If we could only start to get results away from home starting at Arsenal in two weeks time that would surely calm the nerves of the team and fans at home, and allow us to play with the speed and flair that United are used to.

With another international break, it gives Falcao and the other injured players time to recover and get back to help the team up the table.

So enjoy the two-week break and thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts.

Miles Dunton.