Crystal Palace bounced on a hat trick of errors from Victor Lindelof to beat United at Old Trafford, in what was United’s first game of the new season. United looked rusty and shambolic for most of the game, with their offensive players ending the game with zero shots on target. Meanwhile, Palace, a team known mostly for a defensive style of play, with a tally of only 31 goals last season, put three past the United defense. The game was a painful one for United fans. It felt more like a preseason game than a competitive, EPL opener.
The United fan base was already on the edge given the club’s lack of transfer dealings compared to their peers in the league. This performance will only fuel the outrage. United’s unpreparedness was obvious. The team lacked cohesion and ran out of ideas very early on. Even creative players like Fernandes and Pogba were subpar today, with the latter withdrawn in favor of new signing Donny Van de Beek, who provided much more energy going forward and scored his first goal for his new club.
A lack of transfers cannot be blamed for this defeat. The squad has more than enough talent to beat the likes of Palace. We have to take into account that Palace’s schedule has been more lenient than United’s due to the mancunians’ involvement in the Europa League until mid-August. The EPL afforded the club a 30-day break, meaning preseason was short, which is why United may have looked rusty today. However, a tight schedule cannot be used as an excuse. Bayern Munich had a week less than United to recover from last season’s Champions League final and they blasted Schalke in a 8-0 win yesterday.
The whole team needs to take the blame for this defeat. Solskjaer – for not ensuring his team was ready to hit the ground running. Woodward – for not delivering quality signings which would have given this squad a shot in the arm. The players – for not having done enough on the pitch.
If United do not want a remake of Mourinho’s third season at Old Trafford, then the club needs to improve drastically. Woodward needs to make sure the squad is improved. Ole needs to be more ruthless when mistakes are made and instill the never-say-die winning mentality that used to be common at United. Harry Maguire needs to be a more Roy Keane-esque captain and take it upon himself to make sure every single player is giving 200% for the cause in every single game.
While everybody was not on their best today, ultimately it’s Lindelof’s mistakes that cost United. It would be surprising to see Lindelof start the next EPL game. Eric Bailly, praised by Solskjaer recently, should take his place when he is fit. If not, Fosu Mensah might make a better partner for Maguire until Tuanzebe comes back from injury. Even the likes of Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo, reportedly on their way out of the club, are starting to look like better options than Lindelof.
In an ever improving league, mistakes like the ones committed today cannot be tolerated. If United do not step up immediately, the likes of Everton, Leicester and Spurs will catch up on them. The Toffees have recruited shrewdly and showed their offensive might today, with a 5-2 win over West Bromwich Albion. While United were 1-0 down, the commentator announced Gareth Bale’s loan move to Spurs has been completed. Fellow Madrid player Reguilon also joined in a permanent move. United are being left behind.
It’s only the first game of the season and United have all to play for but this was predictable. If at least two quality players are not brought in the squad, the club will suffer this season, especially since they are now playing Champions League football.
New signings not only give the manager better choices but also boosts the players’ morale and increases competition. Rashford and James were absent today, especially the former, who did very little in 90 minutes. All this might change if Sancho were in the team and Greenwood was competing with Rashford for a place in the attacking trio. Luke Shaw might step up his offensive game if Alex Telles was knocking on the door.
United know very well what they have to do to compete for trophies this season. The question is: can they do it quickly enough?