- SAF’s attempts to rally the players in extra time didn’t have the impact he would of desired. Photo: Alex Livesey (Getty Images)
Last night we were pretty convincingly beaten by Crystal Palace 2-1 at Old Trafford and racked up our second home defeat of the season already, a far cry from the fortress that Old Trafford was last season. Going out of the Carling Cup is not the crux of the matter here, take last year’s 4-0 drumming by West Ham that ended our unbeaten run for the season, but it was more the manner of the defeat that is humbling. We all expected that SAF would give either Morrison or Pogba their first start for United but surprisingly, he chose to field a strong starting line-up that boasted 9 international players including Valencia and Berbatov. On paper, this game was ours for the taking with Crystal Palace lying low in the Championship but, and I don’t think I am using hyperbole here, United put in the worst 120 minutes of football I have seen in a long, long time. From the first whistle Palace looked the sharper side and were putting together the better football, with Zaha putting in a great performance in front of the cameras. Darren Ambrose’s peach of a strike deserved to win any game but a reply within three minutes from Macheda put United back on level terms and you expected us to up the tempo and see out the game, an expectance that couldn’t have been further from the truth. United were poor going forward and couldn’t string together a coherent passing move past what was a stubborn Palace defence. The inevitable came when Murray nodded Palace back in front in extra time and United, in a far from vintage performance, simply didn’t threaten the goal in the closing stages of the game.
What can we take from last night? Nothing positive, apart from the cracking performance of Chris Smalling who was the only player that performed consistently throughout the match. Injuries to Rafael, Fabio and Berbatov added to the injury woes that United fans have become accustom to every season and those players that lasted the whole game did nothing to leave an impression on me, let alone SAF. Both Pogba and Morrison got some more minutes under their belt but apart from two shots in quick succession from Morrison, they both blended into nothingness as United deflated to a disappointing defeat. We resorted to passing sideways outside of the Palace area because we didn’t have the cutting edge to penetrate their defence and it terrible to watch. In particular, I wanted Valencia to use a starting berth as a platform to put pressure onto Nani and Young to improve their performances but he had little to no end product on the night. Macheda and Diouf didn’t exactly give SAF any selection problems and a midfield pairing of Park/Gibson left a lot to be desired. Before last night, I wouldn’t have believed that a United team playing at Old Trafford could put in such a toothless performance but alas, what do I know. SAF must be absolutely fuming at what his players delivered to him and considering how tough this season is going to be with City looking more and more like the team to chase, a performance like that against Palace is the last thing we needed. The game against Aston Villa this weekend has now taken on an unnecessary importance but if we are to get near City before Christmas, then United need to use Saturday as the platform to divert negative attention away from us and firmly back on our rivals.