Palace 0-2 Man Utd
It was like 'Ground Hog Day' for Palace as Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney strikes accounted for Crystal Palace for the second time this season as the Champions gained their first away win of 2014, and inflicted the Eagles first home defeat of the New Year.
The penalty kick that RVP scored past Julian Speroni at Old Trafford back in September was shrouded in controversy but there were no doubts about the United opener from the spot this time around. Marouane Chamakh fulfilled the football cliché of “strikers challenge” to upend Evra just in the penalty area allowing the Dutchman to send Speroni the wrong way from twelve yards. Rooney then rounded off the victory just six minutes later capping off a great personal week for him despite the intense scrutiny from the Palace fans in attendance.
Palace had one more shot than United in the game with the best chance falling to Chamakh who could only find the arms of De Gea with his header from around the penalty spot. Parr also came close after a bit of ping pong in the area forced United’s Spanish keeper into a smart save at his near post.
Bolasie was introduced late on and added some pace to the attack, however, United comfortably held onto their lead and left the Eagles hovering precariously just above the drop zone.
Too Much Respect?
“We’re really trying to be a bit positive” said Pulis to Sky in his pre match interview. “We need a bit of luck and to work really hard” continued the gaffer. I imagine that the next time he has the players in a room with him he will be expresses his disappointment that, luck aside of course, none of these things happened.
"It is easy to forget that United are still a top team."
It is easy to forget that United are still a top team. The team that Moyes fielded yesterday won the Premier League title last year with the additions of Fellaini, Mata and Januzaj, hardly slouches. If we wanted anything from the game we needed to be in their faces from the start and I do not think that this happened. The intensity that is usually present in our defensive play was lacking on the day.
Sure we kept them at bay in the first half and even created a couple of good chances of our own, however, United were rarely hurried in possession. Jamie Redknapp highlighted at half time that Palace must be “happy with Rooney and Mata dropping so deep to pick up the ball.” Yes we want this but to then give them the freedom of the park is just asking for trouble. They are world class players and will eventually find a pass that will unlock you and this proved to be true.
"Instead we just stood off and allowed them to grow into the game."
So why the standing off? Players like Rooney and Mata will drop deep to try and pull players out of position allowing deeper laying players to make runs into the space the closing players have left. Manchester United, however, are lacking in confidence at the moment and the free flowing play that we associate with United is not there currently. By getting in their faces and putting pressure on their passes the chances of forcing errors is high. Instead we just stood off and allowed them to grow into the game.
"At times it seemed like we were reluctant to have a go at the likes of Rooney and Mata."
I can offer up two reasons as to why we were not as tenacious in the middle of the park. One is that we showed them too much respect. At times it seemed like we were reluctant to have a go at the likes of Rooney and Mata. As previously stated this allowed them to grow into the game and as soon as they took the lead they were a different team. Just look at RVP bursting into the box and hitting the bar... in the first half I had to keep reminding myself that he was on the pitch!
Secondly, we missed KG. Ledley was next to anonymous in the middle of the park. Whilst I rate Ledley, perhaps this wasn’t the best game to debut him in centre midfield. KG is very underrated by most Palace fans but is very good at what he does and that is having almost perfect positional sense, making him the perfect foil to Jedinak. KG and Jedinak together are akin to a brick wall often for the opposition and are very intimidating/physical. With Ledley in the middle of the park we lost this aspect and I feel that this is what we were missing on the night.
Man of the Match: Mile Jedinak
His passing ability has been scrutinised a lot lately and there have amazingly been calls to have him dropped. Yup, he is a 75% pass completion kind of guy but take him out of midfield and we would fall apart. His physical presence is key and the way he breaks up play, seeing him boast the most interceptions and tackles of any player in the top five divisions across Europe, is vital to the game that we play.
To be honest though, he was probably the best of a bad bunch with only Glenn Murray coming remotely close.
A fantastic display and non-stop singing slightly ruined by people throwing coins at Wayne Rooney. What’s the point? He was not being provocative, remember Troy Deeney provoking us a few season back and getting a bunch of coins rain down on him? I had no issues with that. However, to throw coins at an England international merely because we recognise him is a bit stupid for my liking. And the good it did? He ended up banging in a cracker.
Up Next: Swansea
4.30 on a Sunday. I can’t wait!
Come on you Palace.