Manchester United dropped more points in the Premier League at Selhurst Park on Wednesday as they were held by Crystal Palace.
Chances really were at a premium throughout the 90 minutes with poor visibility in a freezing environment, leaving both sides departing with a point.
Here are five things we learned from the match:
United withstand early barrage
After the first ten minutes of the clash, it looked as though a cracking game was in prospect – particularly for the hosts. Roy Hodgson’s men started much the better of the two sides and were somewhat unfortunate not to have opened the scoring having had three shots in the opening 15 minutes.
First, Christian Benteke fired an effort off-target, before Andros Townsend and Patrick van Aanholt had efforts blocked. Whilst the performance was not inspiring at all for United, one positive is that they managed to resist going behind early on.
Despite the early excitement, the game really did not continue in that vein, with it descending into a match of frustration and wasted opportunities. Between them, both sides could only produce three shots on target, only forcing rare saves out of Dean Henderson or Vicente Guaita.
Both Roy Hodgson and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will want each of their teams to improve their attacking play ahead of the weekend’s round of Premier League matches.
One reason behind Crystal Palace’s stubbornness was the excellent performance of Joel Ward. The right-back was one of a few rare highlights in a dreadful game with a highly impressive defensive performance. Throughout the 90 minutes, he provided 11 key contributions to keep Manchester United at bay including a match-high seven clearances.
Having not quite yet secured the right-back position for his own at Selhurst Park this season having competed with Tyrick Mitchell and Nathaniel Clyne, more performances like this one will only stand him in good stead going forwards for the remainder of the campaign.
Missed opportunity for United
With Leicester City having dropped points earlier in the day against Burnley, the Red Devils had a huge opportunity to extend the gap between themselves and the chasing pack in the race for the UEFA Champions League positions.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men could not take advantage of the Foxes inconsistency, again only taking one point of their own which will hugely frustrate Red Devils fans. With Chelsea now having a game in hand, United’s buffer in the top four could potentially be down to just three points should they win it. At the current time, United now sit at a price as high as 1/7 with Betfair to finish in the Premier League top four come the end of the campaign.
Worrying run of form
Dropped points at Selhurst Park are just a small part of a bigger worry for the Red Devils who are in the midst of a run of tricky form in the Premier League. Whilst they have only lost one match since November, the embarrassing 2-1 reverse at the hands of Sheffield United, the Manchester club have only managed to win two out of their last eight league games – form that has all-but eliminated them from the race for the title.
When looking at the irrepressible form of near neighbours Manchester City, it must wrangle with supporters that their ability to win games has seemingly abandoned them since topping the table just months ago.
Crystal Palace: Guaita (7); van Aanholt (7), Kouyate (7), Cahill (7), Ward (6); Townsend (6), McCarthy (6) (Riedewald (5), 62′), Milivojevic (6), Eze (6) (Schlupp (N/A), 84′); Ayew (6), Benteke (5).
Manchester United: Henderson (6); Shaw (6), Maguire (7), Bailly (7), Wan-Bissaka (6); Matic (6), Fred (6) (McTominay (6), 74′), Fernandes (5); Greenwood (5), Rashford (5), Cavani (5) (James (N/A), 76′).
Referee: Andre Marriner
Yellow Cards: N/A
Red Cards: N/A
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