Taking A Closer Look At Manchester United’s Goalless Draw Against Palace

Manchester United blew another chance to start a potential winning run against a smaller Premier League side, as they drew 0-0 against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. It was the fourth home game in the league for United this season in which they did not score, from nine such matches played.

Jose Mourinho’s team failed to score against a team which was beaten eight times this season alone, which in the end did not turn out to be a huge surprise. The Devils were sluggish in attack once again and Palace were content with a point away at Old Trafford. Here are some interesting statistics from the match that might tell the story, too.

Where Is Lukaku?

Okay, this was a bad performance from Romelu Lukaku. Another one, that is. The Belgian is in appalling form and against Palace it all continued. Just by looking at his touch map from this match, it is obvious to see why. In the 90 minutes he had played, Lukaku made just 20 touches with the ball. In the whole match, there were just three players with less than him, two of which being Palace’s subs in the stoppage time, and the third being Marouane Fellaini with 16 touches. Both Sanchez and Rashford had more touches than him after coming on.

Lukaku managed to make a single shot throughout, a header from Matteo Darmian’s cross which was easy to save. There was virtually nothing that he offered to his teammates in this match – his movements did not create anything for others nor himself. It was at times hard to see what was his point in this system. With just four goals this season, it is becoming a big problem for Mourinho, as he is manager’s only obvious choice of preference up top.

Non-Existent Second Half

Manchester United were starting to get a nickname. It was in this 2018 that they had numerous matches in which they would come back from behind and turn things around in chaotic second halves. It was the case exactly against Crystal Palace and Manchester City last season, when they scored three times against both teams. Now they managed just one goal in 180 minutes.

It also happened against Newcastle, Bournemouth, Chelsea… And that nickname was turning into ‘Second Half FC’. It was far from that against Palace this Saturday. Manchester United created nothing in those 45 minutes and the opponents were comfortable with the way they played.

They had just five shots on goal in that period, but none of them were a decent chance, as they were always coming from tough situations. It looked like United had played into Palace’s hands.

Captain Milivojevic

While it is hard to praise Man United players when they draw 0-0 against Palace, it is easier to praise opposition players. Luka Milivojevic, Crystal Palace’s captain, showed some of the things United midfielders have lacked recently. He was combative and omnipresent, commanding his teammates and also putting in a real shift in defensive department. United players had troubles getting past him in the middle of the park, as Milivojevic racked up three tackles, two interceptions and six clearances, while still being oble to orchestrate his team with a big range of passes.

1 Comment on Taking A Closer Look At Manchester United’s Goalless Draw Against Palace

  1. The much publicised lack of a leader at CB, which Mourinho predicted when he wasn’t backed in the summer, can be resolved with a change of formation (3 CBs, a deep-lying playmaker/ball-winner, pushing the wing backs up to play as wide midfielders and twin strikers – particularly as wing-play is hardly effective).

    Profligacy in front of goal and lack of creativity in the final third is a bigger problem, but again can be resolved by pitting the 4 forwards + Lingard against eachother, starting 2, with 2/3 watching and waiting – in the same system). I’d also argue if Lukaku isn’t cutting it as a target man against the more compact defences, get him to watch Fellaini in that role from the bench. No brainer.

    De Gea is not beyond criticism, as he relies too much on his reactive impulses rather than reading crosses and giving the striker no clear sight of the net and needs on occasion to relieve the pressure on his defence by coming with more single-minded conviction for deep floated crosses.

    The biggest problem for us is a lack of intensity in midfield (the belly of the team, which sets the tone for forwards and defence – consequently impacting on all 3 areas’ confidence of the opposition), which is directly affected by our control or lack of control of the midfield. Win the midfield and you’ll win more than you don’t.

    Despite Pogba’s physical and technical abilities, he’s not a grown-up, so can’t be relied upon to run things (think about it, he’s better technically and physically than Roy Keane, but until someone teaches him how to play in midfield and ensures he’s at from minute 1 to minute 96, he can’t be the fulcrum).

    He still can’t be matched running from deep, which is missed when he’s not playing, so it makes sense to let him be the glory boy, playing as a deep 10 but ordered to make penetrating runs down the centre off the 2 split forwards. Difficult to defend against, I think.

    So the key positions become the other 2 midfielders and their roles. One who is disciplined and sits in the ‘hole’ between the back 3 and midfield, orchestrating when he needs Lindelof (who must be the Liberia of the 3 CBs) stepping up, or the wing-backs dropping deeper, to join him in the ‘hole’.

    Is this Matic, Pereira or Herrera? If they’re not good enough, that’s where we spend our money.

    The other, Pogba’s ‘nanny’, a combative, ball-winner footballer, with the spatial awareness to keep himself between the ball and the man in the ‘hole’ and the wing-backs, the 4 of them operating a mobile midfield diamond, keeping their shape as closely as they can.

    If Herrera, Fred, Lingard or even a fired-up Pogba can’t do this effectively regularly, this is the 2nd position we spend our money on.

    The front 2 partnership must be exchangeable, able to run in behind, drop to receive and try to split CBs and wing-backs going both ways.

    Short of finding an Aguero or Kane (3rd priority) or a top top class ball-playing CB (4th priority) which would allow 2 CBs, with an additional midfielder or forward, we should persevere with the squad, but pit them more directly in competition (worked well enough for Rashford and Martial last season).

    Loans: McTominay (Championship)
    Recall: Tuanzebe
    Sell: Jones

    Starting XI, before we buy anyone (3-1-4-2):
    •De Gea
    •Bailly/Smalling Lindelof Rojo
    •Matic
    •Young/Dalot Herrera Pogba Shaw
    •Martial Sanchez

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