Manchester United got a much needed comfy win on Tuesday, downing Crystal Palace 3-0 in the third round of the Carabao Cup. It was a nice start to their title defense, controlling possession and the match from the opening minutes, but more than that it was a refreshing result for a rotated side that is hopefully, finally, moving clear of the injuries that have plagued the Reds since the start of the season.
Three players returned from injury for United, offering relief at the back after a makeshift back four appeared at the weekend. The midfield was reinforced a bit as well with the return of Mason Mount, who would go on to make a big impact in his 45 minutes of action.
There was an early switch of goalkeepers for Crystal Palace, with Dean Henderson replaced by Sam Johnstone in the 19th minute after suffering an injury. It didn’t take long for The other former United goalkeeper to be tested, and it resulted in a goal for the Reds.
Mount started the move with a nice cross field pass to switch play to Facundo Pellistri. The Uruguayan collected and laid a pass into the bath of Dalot, who then charged to the byline and played a cutback pass across goal for Alejandro Garnacho to score his first of the season.
A second goal followed soon after, with Casemiro yet again getting on the scoresheet. He got his head onto the end of a corner kick, and just like that Johnstone had seen two goals fly past him in his first eight minutes of action.
Mount was the player who delivered the corner kick for Casemiro, and looked really sharp coming back from injury. Positional freedom in attack allowed him to link up with teammates across the final third, and he probably should have had a third assist after setting up Pellistri with a chance. He was replaced at halftime, likely to ease his return from injury with a Premier League game at the weekend, but a very promising return to action all the same.
The Reds took a comfortable 2-0 lead into the break. It was a nice first half display from a rotated side, even though they were playing against a not so great Palace team, and the good form continued into the second half. Victor Lindelof, who replaced Mount and took over at left back, found himself in front of goal after a one-two interchange with Anthony Martial, but the final ball was just behind the Swede.
Martial was the recipient of the next chance, and he buried it. A first-time finish on the half volley after a nice cross in by Casemiro, and Johnstone stood no chance. 3-0 on 55 minutes and it felt done and dusted.
With the result seemingly in hand, ten Hag took the opportunity to get a run out for some other players. Dan Gore and Donny van de Beek came on for the final 20minutes or so, and Jonny Evans replaced Varane for a run out as well. All in all it was a good time to bring players in, and despite the ongoing injury problems it was a chance to refresh and reset for many players looking to prove themselves still.
Importantly it was also an opportunity to rest Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes, who hardly ever get that luxury during the season.
The last run out was given to Rasmus Hojlund, who looks sharp and fresh in the early days of his career at Old Trafford, but no one would say no to a little more time to gel with teammates, especially without the pressure of securing a result weighing him down.
The Reds saw through the rest of the match easily in the first stress-free match of the 2023/24 campaign. No more injuries, a clean sheet, and a good match for several players who really needed it. They’ll likely face a different Crystal Palace side this weekend in their return to Premier League action, but hopefully the positivity and injury-free vibes continue into Saturday.