In the course of four minutes, I rewrote my headline three times. First, it was “United felled by Crystal Palace’s first goal of the season.” Then, it was “Daniel James saves a point at Old Trafford. Finally, it was what you read when you clicked the hyperlink.
Crystal Palace earned its first win at Old Trafford in 28 years. Clearly, this was fate that their last win came in the year of my birth and their most recent would be the day I write my first match report for The Busby Babe.
Manchester United dominated possession in the first half but fell victim to the lethality that they enjoyed just two weeks ago against Chelsea. Despite owning the ball more than 66 percent of the half, United failed to put any of their nine shots on frame with their best opportunity coming off the right foot of Daniel James and then blocked by a Crystal Palace defender.
The Eagles punished the Reds with a dose of their own medicine as a two-touch counter attack drew first blood in the match. Crystal Palace keeper, Vincente Guaita’s artillery strike from his own box found the waiting head of Jeffrey Schlupp who beat Victor Lindelöf. Schlupp’s headed through-ball found the waiting feet of Jordan Ayew who slipped past Harry Maguire to find himself one on one against David De Gea. The Spanish keeper stepped up into no man’s land to head off the attempt, but Ayew was able to slot the ball low and to the left of De Gea to find the back of the net. Ayew’s run into the box marked the first touch by a Crystal Palace player in the Manchester United penalty area, and it also marked the first goal for Crystal Palace on the season.
Adding insult to injury, Ashley Young would sub in shortly after the goal to relieve an ailing Luke Shaw who was favoring his right hamstring minutes earlier.
The second half proved to be a comedy of errors sprinkled with a small glimmer of class.
After a week of garbage punditry that killed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his stable of penalty takers, Scott McTominay’s run in the 69th minute earned another penalty for the Red Devils to attempt to shut up the likes of Gary Neville.
Rashford promptly trotted to the spot to take the penalty to the delight of most media members. His hesitated run up sent Guaita the wrong way, but, to the chagrin of United fans everywhere and the delight of Sky Sports producers, Rashford chose to place the ball on the post instead of the wide-open net.
United finally broke through after dominating the match. Anthony Martial and Rashford put together a one-two at the top of the box before Martial played a ball to a drifting James who found himself unmarked in the box. The winger steadied himself and placed a bending beauty into the right corner -- marking his second straight home match with a goal.
Unfortunately for the Reds, De Gea decided to ruin the party for everyone who were relieved to see United save a point after an incredibly lackluster performance. Crystal Palace started the counter attack in added time and Wilfried Zaha played a ball to Patrick Van Aanholt in the left side of the box. Van Aanholt opted for power to get the ball through the narrow window and, despite De Gea being in position and getting two hands on the ball, the attempt would find its way into the goal to secure the three points for Crystal Palace.
Some may be quick to point to shaky officiating and inconsistent VAR use that felled United, but, ultimately, the Reds had the ball for more than 71 percent of the time, but only placed three of their 22 shots on frame. Solskjaer’s men will face another week of tough questions before they head to the south coast to face Southampton on Aug. 31.