Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 in a Premier League match at Old Trafford on Saturday. The result sees them move within eight points of Arsenal, who suffered a shock defeat at Everton earlier on. United are now third in the league table with 42 points from 21 matches.
Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford scored for the home side in the seventhth and 62nd minutes, respectively. Jeffrey Schlupp reduced the deficit for Palace in the 76th minute after Casemiro was sent off midway through the second half. We will now take a look at two things that stood out in the match:
#1. Manchester United dominated the first half after scoring an early goal:
Manchester United started with their customary 4-2-3-1 and dominated the proceedings from the outset. The Red Devils squeezez possession with their intense pressing and adroit passing. Their high-press caused quite a few turnovers in the final third. However, to their credit, the Crystal Palace defenders held firm for the most part.
However, on one occasion, the visitors’ gritty defense was breached. Luke Shaw played a one-two with Rashford down the left flank before entering into the box, taking a shot that that a Crystal Palace player blocked. The rebound went to Rashford, whose cross was handled by Will Hughes inside the box. Fernandes stepped up and converted the ensuing penalty. Wout Weghorst then almost scored with a header from a corner. On this occasion, Palace keepr Vicente Guaita averted the danger.
Rashford kept shifting to the central areas from the left flank and also swapped places with right winger Antony at times. Fernandes once played a pass into the box to an onrushing Rashford, but his shot was saved by Guaita. On another occasion, his shot from the edge of the box sailed over the bar.
United continued to press high, with either Fred or Casemiro joining the press along with the attackers. However, the Palace defenders succeeded in blocking a lot of crosses from the flanks. As a result, United should have switched flanks more quickly. Furthermore, the home side could not stretch Palace’s defense wide often enough. Both Rashford and Antony typically cut inside from the flanks.
The visitors, meanwhile, depended on sporadic counter-attacks. Those caused little problem as Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro, all chipped in with vital interventions.
#2. Casemiro’s red card tilted the scales, but United saw Palace through:
Palace started the second half on a positive note, launching repeated attacks on United’s goal. They increased numbers in the opposition half, but Martinez stood like a rock and came up with crucial blocks and clearances. The Argentinian also repeatedly cut out passes that led to opportunities. Ten Hag then introduced Alejandro Garnacho in place of Weghorst to utilize the young Argentine’s pace. The effect came almost immediately.
Garnacho got the ball and shifted inside before it was again played to him and then the Argentine passed it to an onrushing Shaw down the left flank. Shaw played a grounded cross first time and Rashford tapped in to score United’s second and his 19th goal of the season.
Just as everything seemed to be under United’s control, then Casemiro’s incident happened and gave the visitors an upper hand. The Brazilian received a red card for grabbing Hughes’ throat after his compatriot Antony was pushed.
Crystal Palace tried to make most of the opportunity and increased the intensity of their attacks. David De Gea came up with a brilliant reflex save to deny the visitors, but Palace scored from the subsequent corner as Schlupp flicked in from close range.
United then replaced Antony with debutant Marcel Sabitzer and later took off Garnacho and Aaron Wan-Bissaka to accommodate Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof. There were four center backs on the pitch as United needed every but of their resolve to keep Palace at bay. Martinez was the stand-out player in their defense, especially in the second half, and played a vital role in ensuring three points for his side.