Manchester United began their season with a very disappointing 3-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace. Roy Hodgson’s Eagles win at Old Trafford saw them repeat last season’s success after consecutive Premier League opening campaign wins. Andros Townsend put the visitors in front and Wilfried Zaha, against his former side, scored with a contentious retaken penalty. Debutant Donny van de Beek looked to have set up a grandstand finish only for Zaha to complete a brace and seal the Reds’ fate.
In light of United’s crushing defeat, here is what we learned from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s domestic opener of the 2020-21 season.
A decent debut for Dutchman Donny
United’s only summer signing began the game on the bench but was brought on with the side chasing a leveller. Although the game slipped beyond reach, van de Beek provided the only bright spot with a well-taken goal to make it 1-2. van de Beek looked neat and tidy on his bow, linking the play and getting forward well in his 23 minute cameo. The goal will give him confidence and I can’t wait to see more of him. Livened United up and looked the part. A very good debut for the young Dutchman, and an absolute steal at £35.7m. A somewhat strange debut, coming at an empty Old Trafford in a home defeat, but one DvdB will not forget. Not many Reds covered themselves in glory but van de Beek can hold his head up.
Solskjaer’s hint for reinforcements
Solskjaer’s team selection raised eyebrows with the inclusion of Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Daniel James but perhaps the selection of the latter was a plea to the hierarchy.
Number-one target Jadon Sancho is the apple of United’s eye and has held talks with Solskjaer but United are refusing to pay the money. Typical of a board without ambition.
Solskjaer could have played Mason Greenwood but perhaps picked James to make a point that a right winger – Sancho or someone else – is the main priority. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen this from a manager. Jose Mourinho once played at Old Trafford without a striker when his Chelsea side were heavily linked with Wayne Rooney. His plea seems likely to fall on deaf ears though.
Hungry Eagles soar off with the points
Full credit to Crystal Palace, they came to Old Trafford and left fully deserving of the points.
Widely tipped for relegation following an awful post-restart run, Roy Hodgson’s side beat Southampton last week and their extra match fitness told as they not only outplayed us, but looked sharper, quicker and hungrier.
Star-man Zaha caused no end of problems, Andros Townsend and Jordan Ayew ran Victor Lindelof ragged and United again struggled against a side that pressed.
It was a second successive win for Palace in these parts and make no mistake, we can have no complaints. The Reds looked leggy, lethargic and devoid of inspiration. Not the way we wanted to start the season.
Victor Lindelof continues to struggle
Whilst he was by no means the only United player to struggle, Lindelof simply couldn’t deal with Zaha, Ayew and Townsend. The Swede struggled time and again when one on one, didn’t have the pace to recover and couldn’t head the ball for love nor money.
Last season Lindelof was at fault for Sevilla’s winner in the Europa League semi-final and whilst the penalty against him today was perhaps harsh, he should have done better for the opener and his body shape was questionable for Zaha’s retaken spot-kick.
If United are to be serious about challenging for major honours which – let’s face it – they aren’t, then is Lindelof really the man for that?
The Glazer cycle begins again
There is a definite pattern emerging under this board. Bring a fresh new manager in to get into the Champions League and give him the money to do so. When he achieves that aim, they then don’t back him. United fall out of contention, they sack the manager and bring in a new man. Repeat ad nauseaum.
No ambition whatsoever.