Manchester United put on a turgid display in a 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace at home in the Premier League. The Reds failed to muster many chances of note, and at times were lucky not to come away with even less.
With almost a full complement of players to choose from, and facing weak opposition at home, José Mourinho opted to name an attacking line-up. Romelu Lukaku was restored to the head of the attack after previously struggling for form and fitness. Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, and Jesse Lingard lined up behind the striker, with the manager opting for an extra attacker rather than a third midfielder. On paper at least, United were setting out to attack.
As has been the case for much of this season though, United’s theoretical quality didn’t quite translate into reality. Despite dominating possession, the Reds struggled to create any chances of note in the opening quarter of the game. While at the other end, Crystal Palace had the best two chances of the first 25 minutes through a stinging effort from Wilfried Zaha that whizzed just wide, and a rapid counter-attacking move than Patrick van Aanholt failed to finish.
United’s first two shots on target came in the 30th minute. Wayne Hennessey got down sharply to deny Lingard, and Martial’s follow up header lacked the requisite power to beat the Palace ‘keeper.
United were fortunate not to go behind just before halftime. After Chris Smalling had given away a free kick, Victor Lindelöf redirected the delivery into his own net. A late offside flag spared the Swede’s blushes. There were audible grumbles from the crowd at half-time. Despite this being the first game at Old Trafford for a month, the Reds were giving the home support little to cheer for.
Little changed after the break - United lacked intensity and invention. In the 56th minute, it was the Reds’ turn to have a goal ruled out for offside, as Lukaku’s tap in was called back. A few minutes later, Mourinho made a double change to try to inject some life into proceedings. Marouane Fellaini and Marcus Rashford were sent on in place of Mata and Lingard.
Those changes did nothing to improve United’s hapless defending though. A double save from David de Gea was required to keep Palace from going ahead shortly after the substitutions had been made. In the 68th minute, Mourinho made his final adjustment by replacing Paul Pogba with Alexis Sánchez.
United continued to be maddeningly impotent, and for a while Palace looked the more likely side to take the lead. It was the 83rd minute before a genuine chance arrived. Lukaku guided a header toward the bottom corner, but Hennessy was there again with a sprawling save.
In the end, United were once again not good enough. It was an uninspired, lifeless performance; lacking in creativity, lacking in intensity, and lacking in cohesion.