During Fergie’s tenure, a tradition was birthed. A tradition so real and yet terrifying.
The notion or tradition that ‘Manchester United always wins’ has started to be echoed in football corners.
After Manchester United defeated Crystal Palace 3-1 on Wednesday night at Selhurst Park, both managers agreed that United had been superior — and yet it was slightly difficult to pinpoint precisely what worked for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
Up front, Romelu Lukaku scored two goals, but his all-round performance was inconsistent, full of poor touches when trying to link with teammates. There was little combination play in the final third, with Alexis Sanchez again peripheral and Diogo Dalot too wide to link with his teammates.
In midfield, Paul Pogba was impressive, but Fred and Scott McTominay still seemed uncertain of their positional responsibilities. Both full-backs looked ragged after half-time, and David De Gea’s distribution let him down after colliding with the post midway through the second half.
But, yet again, United won. Two excellent finishes from Lukaku — the first a side-footed slot into the far corner after good work from Luke Shaw, the second an outstanding acrobatic effort after the ball broke loose from a corner — had put them into a commanding position. Joel Ward’s far-post header briefly made it a contest, before Ashley Young, pushed forward from right-back to right midfield for the final 15 minutes, converted from a narrow angle to confirm the victory.
The expected goal figures reckoned Palace had created the better goal-scoring opportunities here, managing 1.9 xG to United’s 1.5, but it’s far from the first time this season the Eagles have squandered presentable opportunities and their opponents have taken them.
Manchester United were the latest beneficiaries, winning without truly playing well — a mark of the old-school United that Solskjaer knows so much about.
Solskjaer was compromised by injury absences; no Anthony Martial, no Jesse Lingard, no Ander Herrera, no Nemanja Matic, no Juan Mata, and Marcus Rashford only fit enough for the bench. His tactics were formulated to guard against Palace’s left-sided threat, with Dalot pushed on as a right-sided midfielder, but asked to drop back and help Young defend against Palace’s threatening trio of Wilfried Zaha, Jeffrey Schlupp and Patrick van Aanholt.