Selhurst Park was a site of carnage as Manchester United were able to defeat Crystal Palace 3-1 late on Wednesday night. Two impeccable finishes from Romelu Lukaku set the tone for the Red Devils, following which Joel Ward gave some hope to the home fans but Ashley Young wrapped it up nicely with his winner.
Despite the win, United are rooted to the fifth spot as Arsenal won big against Bournemouth while Chelsea are creeping close again with a win versus none other than Tottenham. A real close top-four race will play about before the end of the season.
1. Solskjaer Makes History Again
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s impressive unbeaten run stays alive and with the Crystal Palace victory, the Norwegian was able to break yet another club record.
The win was United’s eight consecutive one whilst on the road, an all-time club best. These away league wins are crucial and point to just how balanced United have been in their approach. It’s often the away games under the new regime that have held more tactical brilliance and saw United emerge supreme despite handicaps.
2. Lukaku Proves His Worth
Despite putting in a brilliant showing against Liverpool, the Belgian wasn’t lauded much and even put down by a few pundits while the lack of goals meant that even fan support was scarce.
However, against Palace he managed to crush all of that. Two remarkable goals, with the second one amongst the finest that the Premier League has seen in a few months.
Lukaku was in blistering attacking mood throughout the game and his 4 shots on target are a brilliant change from the previous games wherein the Belgian often struggled to register even a single worthwhile shot.
Another selection dilemma for Solskjaer and potentially even a second thought for United in the midst of interest from Juventus for the former Everton man.
3. Luke Shaw’s Resurgence Continues
Combined with Solskjaer’s apt tactics to build a strong flank, Luke Shaw’s brilliance has shined through even more. The resurgence that started this season under Jose Mourinho has powered ahead in great fashion.
The stats tell the story themselves as the English left-back registered a perfect game with 100% successful take-ons, won 100% aerial duels, and more incredibly, won 100% tackles.
To top it all off, his beautiful assist for Lukaku’s opener will also stay in mind for quite a while.
4. Two Contrasting Midfield Performance
However, it wasn’t a night of complete perfects. Fred’s midfield woes continued and the fans who were questioning why he’s not getting more minutes may have received their answers. The Brazilian had just 49 accurate passes to his name and lost a majority of his duels. His long-balls and attempts to create chances didn’t have enough in them to justify the pricetag he touts.
In proper contrast, Scott McTominay presented himself as an eager midfield maestro and not as an academy talent who doesn’t play week in and week out. The youngster was adamant to take his chances well. The Liverpool game was a great example of the same but against Palace that hunger became all the more evident.
5. Another Tactical Masterclass for Solskjaer
A few individuals would have been worried for Solskjaer’s unbeaten record going into this game considering the injuries that afflicted the club.
Further, the starting lineup he fielded confused quite a few, with the position of Diogo Dalot contested by pundits before the game. However, this turned out to be the foundation of another tactical masterstroke from the ‘inexperienced’ Norwegian.
Palace’s biggest threat was their impressive flank of Wilfried Zaha and Patrick Van Aanholt, the combination that had rewarded them well in past two seasons. This duo was combatted quite effectively by deploying both Young and Dalot in a battle of the right-flank.
Dalot effectively created more chances than any other United player on the pitch and was crucial in his tendency to push the opposition’s full-back in their half and also useful in his attacking spurts when on the ball. While, Young countered Zaha’s threat by sitting deep.
The controversial decision was not a mere injury-management trick but rather a masterstroke in disguise.