Manchester United were expected to grind out a convincing performance on the home soil against Crystal Palace with huge semi-final clashes of Fa Cup at Wembley looming large for both clubs and United did the exact thing on an evening of entertaining football. Manchester United were in supreme command right from the start and not even five minutes into the game, they found themselves taking an early lead after Damien Delaney netted an own goal through a recklessly extended foot.
Since then it was evidently one-way traffic all in the favour of the red devils as United dominated in the number of chances, possession wise, passing wise and almost everything that made the game enjoyable today. A tactical shift from United in relevance to the formation saw them playing 4-3-3 against the 4-2-3-1 of Crystal Palace and it was meant to be a shift in the gear for United as well but again the same old story! United could have easily netted in more goals but they just put a mere two on the board. Crystal Palace on the other side, were frustrated as well as a struggling unit. Mathematically too, the club from London is not safe and if any of the relegation battlers put up a monumental effort, Crystal Palace do have a chance of finding themselves in the championship and quite many times we’ve seen relegation do bring out monumental efforts from the clubs!
United started the second half on a pacey note and soon enough a Paul Scholes-esque goal from Matteo Darmian ended up in the net having hit the post. Defensively, Manchester United have accumulated their 12th clean sheet out of the recent 17 at home in the league. After a good game at Old Trafford, we look at the three talking points post the United and Palace game.
4-3-3 a much more suited formation than 4-2-3-1 for United?
Louis Van Gaal tried 4-3-3 against West Ham in the replay of the FA Cup and it worked wonders but after the recent unconvincing performance against a miserable Villa side with 4-2-3-1, Van Gaal decided to play 4-3-3 once again against Palace and it did look like a formation that would really suit United. Pacey wingers, Clever midfielders, and ever threatening poachers has been the story of United and today too, brilliant runs from Valencia and Martial on either flanks as well as the creative input from the midfield involving Mata and Rooney saw United triumph. Attacking wise although United should have got more goals, the formation looks to be a much better one for United. The only thing that really needs a change is the involvement of players in the box and once that’s fixed, United can really start scoring.
Miserable Crystal Palace-
Crystal Palace don’t sit at a pretty position at all in the league. They are still not ensured about their safety and their season has fallen off dramatically. Alan Pardew was left fuming at the sidelines of Old Trafford and his side failed to even test De Gea properly once. The depressing season for the Palace’s fans continues and with mammoth games against Newcastle and Stoke coming up in the nearing weeks, Palace must find that second gear, that extra bit of confidence, that fighting spirit to see out the results in their favour and hopefully look forward to enjoy another season at the top flight.
Verdict : Crystal Palace are not safe, but they have enough firework in them to survive.
The race to finish in the top 4-
The last time United wanted to close down the gap on the top four, Juan Mata got sent off due to ridiculous bookings and United failed on that day. They ensured that nothing of this sort would happen at Palace and a fair victory against Crystal Palace has seen United reach within a point of Arsenal and two points behind their cross-town rivals Manchester City.
Arsenal face a defensive-minded West Brom on Thursday and if tactically they aren’t set up properly, West Brom can leave London with a point. Manchester City are yet to visit the South Coast to face Koeman’s Southampton while Arsenal do face resilient West Brom and Norwich in their upcoming fixtures. The 37th week of the English Premier League will have the biggest say on this race when Manchester City host Arsenal at the Etihad and if United, on the other hand, keep up their pressure, they may take advantage if a draw is an outcome between Arsenal and City. Nothing is decided as yet, but the race is definitely heating up!