Crystal Palace earned their second win in as many seasons at Old Trafford by getting Manchester United’s season off to the worst start with a 3-1 success.
The Eagles seized an early lead through Andros Townsend’s strike, with former Red Devil Wilfried Zaha extending that advantage with a retaken penalty after Jordan Ayew’s original effort was missed. United debutant Donny van de Beek gave the hosts a lifeline with ten minutes remaining but Zaha struck again to seal a memorable victory for Roy Hodgson and his men.
Here are three things we learnt from the Red Devils’ opening match of the campaign:
Counter-attacking masterclass from the Eagles
Travelling to Old Trafford, it is almost expected that a side will soak up at least some pressure and then try and build their own attacks from that. The Eagles though executed that plan with ruthless efficiency. Whilst Townsend’s opening goal was a well-crafted move that was polished off at the back post, the other two strikes were the results of lethal counter-attacks.
The penalty was the result of a great exchange of passes between Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend and Jordan Ayew. A clever scooped effort from the latter then struck the hand of Victor Lindelof, leading to the award of a penalty, which in the end was dispatched clinically by Zaha.
In the closing stages, with the hosts building pressure in order to equalise, Hodgson’s men then broke up the other end of the pitch, with Zaha getting the better of Lindelof again. If Palace can replicate that style of play more often throughout the campaign then they could well shock more of the big boys throughout the season.
Impotent Red Devils
Manchester United had 17 shots throughout the game against Palace but that doesn’t tell the story of the match. Only four of those efforts were on target and none of those actually came from the Red Devils’ attacking players. Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Daniel James or Odion Ighalo didn’t really manage to threaten Vicente Guaita’s goal throughout the game and considering the zipping, attacking football that the Red Devils were playing towards the conclusion of 2019/20, that will really disappoint supporters, especially considering that the match was on home soil.
If Solskjaer’s men are to reach the top four again, which they are currently at 2/1 with Betfair to do this season, they surely have to be more threatening at goal.
VAR drama continues into 2020/21
If viewers thought that VAR controversy was going to be left in 2019/20, they were gravely mistaken. The penalty decision was a contentious one as Ayew flicked the ball onto the outstretched arm of Lindelof and on reflection, it was an extremely harsh decision to give by referee Martin Atkinson, even after the intervention of VAR.
With the striker having his effort saved by David De Gea, the Eagles were then given another chance to find the net. The Spaniard was adjudged to have been off of his line when the shot was taken, leading to a retake. By the letter of the law, the decision was the correct one and one that benefitted Palace, with Zaha thundering home. It will be interesting to see if there is that consistency in those sort of decisions throughout the rest of the Premier League campaign.
Manchester United: De Gea (6); Shaw (6), Maguire (5), Lindelof (5), Fosu-Mensah (6) (Ighalo (N/A), 81′); Pogba (6) (de Beek (7), 67′), McTominay (6), Rashford (5), Fernandes (6), James (4) (Greenwood (5), 45′); Martial (5).
Crystal Palace: Guatia (6); Mitchell (6), Sakho (7), Kouyate (7), Ward (6); Schlupp (7) (Eze (6), 75′), McCarthy (7) (Milivojevic (N/A), 88′), McArthur (7), Townsend (7); Zaha (8), Ayew (7) (Batshuayi (N/A), 81′).
Goals: Townsend (7′), Zaha (PEN 74′, 85′), van de Beek (80′)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Yellow Cards: Ward (55′), Fosu-Mensah (58′), Maguire (64′)
Red Cards: N/A
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