Manchester United had to bring on the dynamic Juan Mata to ensure they picked all three points against strugglers Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. After an extended warm up overseen by none rather than Louis van Gaal himself, the Dutchman sent out an attacking minded lineup with Wayne Rooney deployed in central midfield and the towering presence of Marouane Fellaini supporting Robin van Persie in attack.
The breakthrough came well into the second half from Juan Mata’s well placed strike as Palace maintained their defensive shape for much of the game. The clean sheet will please United goalkeeper David de Gea who earned his 50th blank in 144 appearances, particularly special because United finished with a winger and two central midfielders in defence amidst a defensive crisis.
Let’s take a look at the Manchester United Player Ratings against Neil Warnock’s well drilled side.
David de Gea – 7
The Spanish shot stopper had little to do, but was alert to the danger when called upon. Quiet afternoon for the United No.1.
Antonio Valencia – 6
Yannick Bolasie could have caused all sorts of problems for the makeshift right back, but Palace had little possession to make an attacking impact. Looks ill at ease at right back, but would be pleased with a quiet pay day.
Paddy McNair – 7
The young United defender seems to be growing into his first team role under Louis van Gaal’s watchful eye. Snuffed out a Palace break led by James Puncheon early in the second half.
Daley Blind – 6
The Dutchman has been United’s utility player this season, but looked comfortable against a toothless Palace attack. But looked loose in possession and has to combine with vision and attacking intent with accuracy.
Luke Shaw – 7.5
Looks more and more a Manchester United player after his early injury problems. Driving run in the first half opened up Palace and brought Speroni into action. Looks increasingly confident both defensively and offensively.
Michael Carrick – 6.5
For United to get back to their slick best, Michael Carrick has to have more of an influence on the game. The experienced midfielder has to start bossing games from his deeper role. Safe, neat and tidy. Decent comeback start after six months.
Wayne Rooney – 6.5
Asked to play in a deeper role, Wayne Rooney had a frustrating afternoon in an attacking sense, but his touch was a bit too heavy on more than one occasion. Louis van Gaal has to find the best position for his skipper. It is certainly not in central midfield.
Marouane Fellaini – 6.5
Fellaini isn’t the solution to United’s lack of fluidity in midfield, he never was. But he offers a presence in the middle of the park that United have failed to exploit in recent matches. Linked up well with Adnan Januzaj. Maybe, it is the start of a renaissance for the Belgian.
Adnan Januzaj – 6.5
The Belgian youngster seems to have all the tricks in his bag, but his trickery seems to flatter to deceive on far too many occasions. Tightly marked by Palace today and his decision making in the final third seems to let him down. Was on the end of a few admonitions from captain Rooney for being casual in tracking back.
Angel Di Maria – 6.5
His involvement seems to be restricted on the wings, particularly with United lacking dynamic central midfielders. Forced the keeper into action once or twice, but had an afternoon to forget overall. Di Maria has to play in the middle. He is United’s best player.
Robin van Persie – 6
Another frustrating afternoon for a player struggling for both form and fitness. Had little quality service from the wings and looked wasteful and indecisive in possession.
Juan Mata – 7
The match winner. Juan Mata’s inclusion changed the course of the game as the Spaniard brought in a touch of creativity and urgency into the Manchester United ranks. Should stake a greater claim for a first team place against Arsenal.
James Wilson – 6
Looked a peripheral figure as United were more concerned with protecting their advantage towards the end.
Darren Fletcher – NA
Came on in the last few minutes to partner Michael Carrick in central defence.