Manchester United wasted zero time returning to form and wasting your Saturday with a toothless performance against a team it definitely should beat 10 times out of 10. Crystal Palace out United’d United as it counterattacked and benefitted from VAR multiple times on its way to a jaw-dropping 1-3 win at the Theatre of Dreams. Usually Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likes to give it a couple results before we question his managerial choices, but, with it being a condensed season, he got right to down to business.
Here are three things we learned from United’s 1-3 embarrassment against Crystal Palace.
2019-20’s problems are 20-21’s problems
Remember when the lack of depth was a huge weight crushing United’s ability to truly become great? No, I’m not talking about last fall, I’m talking about a month and a half ago when this United team secured third place by the skin of its teeth and was knocked out of two cup semifinals with the starting XI looking like the squad at the end of Saving Private Ryan or something.
But as Bruno Fernandes and Aaron Wan-Bissaka and the like dragged their near lifeless bodies off the pitch for the final time, we all thought, “way to gut it out lads, we just secured Champions League so we can finally bring in some reinforcements so we can make it through an even more condensed schedule with even tougher competition.”
Well, despite the signing of my second son, Donny van de Beek, more reinforcements are very much not guaranteed at the moment. Combined with multiple players coming back from quarantine and international duty, Ole had a perfect storm of squad depth hell. Based on the current roster when healthy and available, United’s starting XI is written in permanent marker. However, when AWB and Mason Greenwood and Nemanja Matić don’t start or even make the 18, United’s right side stands up to opposition about as well as Neville Chamberlain.
Daniel James, Scott McTominay, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah combined were like mayonnaise ice cream and every part of this sentence should never be implemented or suggested ever again. This team desperately cannot afford to lose AWB and needs someone who can competently combine on the wing and not give away the ball. James has cemented his place in this team as a squad player only and should not be relied upon as a starter except for second leg cup ties when United have insurmountable leads. Meanwhile, TFM probably did not receive a fair shake as AWB’s understudy, however, the right side was still wide open during his charge and he needs to adjust quickly.
Finally, that right-side pivot in the 4-2-3-1 has to be someone who has positional awareness and can actually play a ball. I can’t imagine we’ll be waiting long to see DVDB make his full debut if Matić is unavailable for any length of time. McTominay was nice when we actually sucked, but United is at a different level now and pure effort in place of talent isn’t enough anymore.
VAR is no longer a Red
Spirit of the game be damned. Not once, but twice a VAR decision went against United with enough time passed after the play in question for everyone to forget a possible infraction.
First, in the 69th minute, Jordan Ayew scooped a ball in the box to avoid Victor Lindelöf’s close down and the ball appeared to graze the Swede’s arm before De Gea snagged the ball and initiated the United counterattack. Ayew, despite being the main instigator of the play in question, did not yelp, did not throw up his hand in the universal sign of handball, instead he simply trotted off with the look of, “I could have done better there.” United would take the ball all the way down the pitch and Rashford would fire off a shot well wide of the goal before Martin Atkinson was putting his finger to his ear.
VAR would soon find that Lindelöf, who can be fired off into the sun at this point, added awkward running and heading to his list of awkward things he does because sure enough, in his attempt to head Ayew’s scoop whilst running, he raised his right arm and it made contact with the ball. Atkinson would point to the spot and Ayew would approach to take the penalty leading to incident numero dos.
In the 72nd minute, De Gea would pull out what seemed to be a miracle. Down a goal with his team not showing enough to suggest they were capable of coming back from 0-2 down, De Gea saved Ayew’s penalty — a rare feat for a goalkeeper who, despite all of his talents, has never been particularly good at saving penalties. However, it would appear De Gea came off his line a hair too soon, yet, the entire Crystal Palace team would walk away without protest and with an, “aww shucks, too bad we didn’t score there, we would’ve really closed this one out then” look on all their faces. De Gea then restarted play and the game would move on for another 30 seconds before, AGAIN, Atkinson put his stupid finger to his stupid ear and called for a retake.
It was a bloody miracle that DDG saved a penalty, but it would be reason to go play the lottery for every United fan if the Spaniard could save two in successive minutes. This time it wouldn’t be Ayew taking the redo as he conceded the penalty take to former United forward Wilf Zaha (without going on a rant, it seems kind of effed up that the guy whose penalty was saved on the first one doesn’t have to take the second one, but the penalty still has to be taken). Zaha would undo the mistake that Ayew made and send a penalty confidently past De Gea and into the back of the net for a nearly insurmountable lead for the inept Reds to overcome inside 18 minutes and some stoppage.
Say the least, f—- you, VAR.
Donny Van de Beek. That’s the tweet.
My aforementioned second son scored on his debut. Discounting the fact that my first son, Daniel, scored on his debut last year, DVDB debuted as advertised and was probably more influential in 23 minutes than many of the Reds had in full halves. Why didn’t he start?
DVDB’s bread and butter is getting himself into spaces and being opportunistic. And would you believe he was in the perfect position to score United’s consolation goal to avoid getting skunked. Furthermore, he was accurate with his passes in the opponent’s half and active all over the pitch.
If you’re a Red living in Amsterdam, make sure Edwin van der Sar never pays for a drink again in that city because he fleeced his own team to give us a quality midfielder. I think DVDB is going to grow into something special along the likes of Fernandes and Paul Pogba, and, if he doesn’t, be sure to bookmark this story and flame me in the comments later on — I shan’t be reading them either way.
Bonus Fourth Thing: Is Luke Shaw self aware?
Almost to the second that Shaw was multiple steps behind Andros Townsend as Townsend slotted in the opening goal, Tottenham was announcing the official signing of Sergio Reguilón — a rapid left-back that United were very much in for before they pulled out of the deal for reasons. Good business or not for pulling out of the Reguilón deal, that bit doesn’t count for shit inside of the 90 minute period that Luke Shaw looked like he was wearing concrete boots against considerably faster players.
Now, Shaw is calling on the board to find reinforcements, but it makes you wonder if he thinks he’s secure in his position. Fabrizio Romano has reported since the end of last week that United were in the process of securing left back Alex Telles’ very impressive talents from FC Porto.
Alex Telles’ game by numbers vs. Braga:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) September 19, 2020
100% successful take-ons
100% aerial duels won
100% tackles won
71% pass accuracy
3 chances created
Not a bad night’s work. pic.twitter.com/eB9889hxZu
Shaw is gonna mess around and be the reinforcement if he doesn’t figure out if he’s a good footballer or not very soon.