In what was a largely disappointing game, Manchester United was held to a drab 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace. The first half saw a nervous start from us as Palace was the better side in the first ten minutes. However, both teams lacked control as we conceded possession and were slopping in our passing. We did come close with Nemanja Matic. His deflected shot was tipped over the bar by Palace’s Vicente Guaita. Other than that United failed to create any other chances.
The second half saw more of the same as United showed no energy or much intent. We did try to build up some attacking play down the wings but the end product from the front three just wasn’t there. The biggest chance of the game fell to Palace’s Patrick Van Aanholt. His shot was saved superbly by Dean Henderson who made sure we did not end up losing the game.
Here is a look at five things we learned from the game.
1. Sleepwalking Into The Draw
It won’t be a game that goes down in the annals of time. Many United fans through social media platforms were decrying that it was the most boring game to watch. The first half was drab and the second half didn’t get any better for us. United just lacked in all areas of the pitch – buildup, progression, and creation. The performance maybe did not come as a surprise to a lot of fans as this was our third consecutive draw across all competitions.
We had a 0-0 draw against Real Sociedad, followed by the same scoreline against Chelsea. Us fans did not want to sit through another lacklustre performance but that’s what we got. United seemed to have lost their cutting edge since we went top of the league back on the 12th of January. With the front three failing to connect and with Anthony Martial out injured, there were no proven attacking options to call on from the bench.
2. Henderson Saved Us From Losing The Game
As we headed into injury time, we could have easily dropped all three points. Palace’s Patrick Van Aanholt was free of the United defence and had only the goalkeeper to beat. Dean Henderson came out and close him down making himself as big as possible. He saved the shot and kept us in the game.
Henderson came in after De Gea was left out due to personal reasons. He duly stepped up to the plate. This was his 14th club appearance this season. He has only conceded 7 goals in these games. Palace had rarely threatened, having just the one shot on goal. He was commanding in the box as he claimed a number of crosses.
Henderson has now had a taste of being in the first team. Now he wants more. He not only wants to be the number one goalkeeper for United but for England as well. Henderson wants to get there by merit.
With De Gea missing the game due to personal reasons, the derby against Manchester City at the weekend could see Henderson afforded another chance to stake his claim.
3. Fernandes Struggling To Find Form
You cannot have much to criticise about Bruno Fernandes as he has been such a brilliant player for us. He is in contention to win the player of the year award. He always had high standards for himself and others in the side. It was noticeable in the Palace game that he was not having much influence as he has done in previous games. Ole is playing him week in, week out because of what he can deliver. So it raises the question, it is the other players around him we should be concerned about.
When Bruno is not able to provide the inspiration, United tend not to play well. Before Pogba’s got injured, he had started to step up meaning not all the pressure was on the Portuguese midfielder shoulders. We need to build a side whereby other players come to the fore when Bruno is having an off day.
4. Shaw’s Consistent Form Continues
Luke Shaw’s night could have ended early when Palace’s Joel Ward tackle caused him to rolled his ankle. But he overcame the discomfort as he fired in a cross into the feet of Marcus Rashford who controlled the ball only to fired it wide of the goal. Another cross found Bruno Fernandes, but the Portuguese midfielder miss-hit the shot.
He was proving a real threat down the left-hand side of the pitch. Ultimately the opportunities provided to the front three were not converted. Now only alongside his defensive duties, he is now showing his attacking capabilities.
5. A Better Performance Needed For The Upcoming Manchester Derby
If United turns up at the Etihad stadium on Sunday and plays as they have done in the previous three games, then our incredible away record this season will be gone. We have lost that cutting edge in recent weeks and the form of the players have all dipped at the same time. The only positive take out of our draw was the fact that Leicester City drew with Burnley so could not go above us in the league.
We are now 14 points behind our neighbours and league leaders Manchester City. Our hopes for challenging for the title are now over. However, United need to go City and produce a better performance as we need to start to build momentum and secure our place inside the top four come the end of the season.