Three talking points as Manchester United eased past a hapless Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace’s miserable start to the new Premier League season extended to seven successive defeats on Saturday afternoon as Manchester United eased to another three points at Old Trafford.
It took all of four minutes for the hosts to breach Palace’s leaky defence, with Marcus Rashford putting on a sublime show of skill before pulling the ball back for Juan Mata to slot into the corner.
Marouane Fellaini scored either side of the half-time break on his return to put United in complete cruise control and Romelu Lukaku topped things off late on with his seventh league goal of the year.
The result sees United return to the top of the Premier League table ahead of Manchester City – for a few hours at least – whilst Palace remain rooted to the bottom, now five points away from safety.
Where can Crystal Palace turn things around?
Without wanting to sound like a broken record, Crystal Palace are in a crisis.
We may only be seven games into the new Premier League season but the warning signs are doing more than just flashing around Selhurst Park after seven straight defeats and 630 minutes of top-flight football without a goal, and it’s hard to see how they can stop their worrying downward spiral.
Just like last weekend on the other side of Manchester they showed brief signs of life, but their glaring lack of cutting edge – not helped by a lengthy injury list – leaves them toothless in attack.
The fault for this lies firmly in the summer recruitment – or lack of – and you can argue that the Eagles shouldn’t have expected anything else from their start with just the one recognised forward in their ranks.
Hodgson will just be wanting this wretched run of fixtures to finish and will no doubt be relieved after the visit to Chelsea, so then he can start to truly assess his side against those also in the bottom-half.
United’s strength in depth is a threat
Another game, another three points as far as Manchester United were concerned as they recorded their sixth Premier League win of the season – and fourth in a row at Old Trafford – against Crystal Palace.
It was as efficient as it was effortless on Saturday afternoon, with Mourinho’s men barely having to get into second gear as they remarkably recorded their fourth 4-0 victory in just seven league games.
And there’s a real sense of anticipation growing around Salford that something special could happen this season, in part down to the strength in depth that the United manager now has at his disposal.
Mourinho is able to rotate at will – a huge plus considering their midweek exploits in the Champions League – and Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini and Marcus Rashford were all drafted back into the side on Saturday after being omitted from the starting eleven for the routine victory against CSKA Moscow in the week.
It was this trio that posed the visitors the most problems too, with Mata scoring on what was his 200th appearance in the Premier League, Fellaini finding the net twice and Rashford grabbing two assists.
Tougher tests will come when they eventually face their top-six rivals but, for now, it seems that United have two players readily available for each position – and it’s this depth that’s helped their rampant start.
Could Ashley Young be undergoing the Antonio Valencia transformation?
When former manager Louis van Gaal first tried Antonio Valencia in a right-back role, most Manchester United supporters would have wondered what on earth the Dutchman was drinking.
The Ecuadorian international was known for his lung-busting runs to the by-line, looking to outpace the defender, thrash a ball across the area and hope that a teammate would gamble on the end of it.
Yet three years down the line and it’s clear to see that this was an inspired decision by Van Gaal, going down as part of his legacy at Old Trafford, and it’s possible that a similar transformation could be in the offing as Ashley Young continues his fine run of displays at left-back over the past month.
Options on the left side of the United defence have been slim for Jose Mourinho as a result of Luke Shaw’s ongoing injury struggles and, with the fixture list already building up after their return to the Champions League, the Portuguese tactician turned to Young – a man he used at the back last year.
And it’s fair to say he’s slotted back in there seamlessly, developing the defensive side of his game well whilst still carrying the potent threat from crosses that he has possessed throughout his career.
His delivery was spot on against Palace on Saturday, supplying a pinpoint ball to the back post for Fellaini to tap home a second, and he could the latest top-flight midfielder to thrive in a brand-new position.
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