Manchester United travelled to Selhurst Park to face Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace.
A win for United would put them in second place, two points above Manchester City and six below table-leaders Arsenal.
Erik ten Hag fielded a starting XI that included a United debut for new January acquisition, Wout Weghorst. Antony was also restored to the side in place of Fred who was named on the bench.
Lisandro Martinez started ahead of Tyrell Malacia, which means that Luke Shaw was restored to his favoured left flank.
Here are four things we learned from Manchester United’s 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace
Comfortable first half
The Red Devils strolled through the opening 45 minutes and headed into the break a goal up, courtesy of Bruno Fernandes.
The Portuguese, who also netted against Manchester City, got on the end of a wonderful ball from Christian Eriksen and made no mistake in picking his spot to give his side the lead over the Eagles.
The physically dominant Weghorst attracted most of Palace’s defenders to him which left Fernandes with a world of space and time to make up his mind about where to put the ball.
United mustered 63% possession to their opposition’s 37%. They also registered an enormous 10 shots, with three springing Vicente Guaita to swift action.
Palace had only three shots, with one being on target.
With Martinez back in the side, United were defensively dominant against the London club and looked assured at the back.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Shaw played extremely high up the pitch which helped peg Palace back to their own half for large segments of the first half.
The Reds dealt with any questions asked of them by the Palace attackers to great effect and undoubtedly, heading down the tunnel, Ten Hag would have been pleased with what his team showed on hostile grounds.
Wan-Bissaka showing rapid progression
Wan-Bissaka produced a superb performance against his former team.
If any fan still harboured any doubts about the Englishman, his performance against Palace should put those uncertainties to bed.
The defender excelled in both aspects of his game – going forward and defending.
He came up with a few clutch tackles and interceptions that served to snuff out Palace’s attacking forays. In one vs one encounters against Palace who boast some of the league’s trickiest players in Wilfried Zaha and Micheal Olise just to mention a few, Wan-Bissaka came out on top.
So good was Wan-Bissaka that Zaha was forced to change wings so as to avoid coming up against him.
The 25-year-old displayed an incredible willingness to stay high up and contribute to United’s attacking phases. He constantly took his man when an opportunity availed itself and made himself available to Antony.
A big credit to Wan-Bissaka who is currently enjoying one of his most productive spells in a United shirt is that his ability on the ball has significantly improved.
The player looked comfortable in tight spaces and he made the right decisions almost all the time. Wan-Bissaka put a few good crosses into the box and was stellar in his passing.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s first half by numbers vs. Crystal Palace:
100% tackles won
86% pass accuracy
24 passes completed
3 ball recoveries
2 crosses completed
1 key pass
Looking revitalised. 🕷️ pic.twitter.com/7rm68eSSqa
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 18, 2023
At one point he looked destined to leave United but certainly, he’s giving Ten Hag something to think about. Wan-Bissaka retaining the starting berth even when Diogo Dalot returns does not seem to be a far-fetched idea as it did a few months ago. He’s aggressively making a claim for himself.
Solid debut for Weghorst
While he did not do anything to overly rave and go crazy about, Weghhorst had a solid debut.
Before being taken off for Alejandro Garnacho, the Dutchman showed glimpses of what United fans can expect of him at least until the end of the season.
Weghorst had fantastic link-up play and seemed to be on the same wavelength as his teammates.
Another aspect of his game that stood out is his pressing and work rate. He was always keen to initiate the press and be the first man to defend as Palace tried to build from the back. He also dropped deep on a number of occasions to receive the ball.
The 30-year-old provided a natural target for others to aim for and it was his presence in the box that facilitated Fernandes’ goal.
Casemiro ruled out of the Arsenal game
Another blow for United in their draw against Palace, apart from the fact that points were dropped is that they will not be able to count on Casemiro’s services on the weekend against Arsenal.
The Brazilian was walking a tightrope heading into Selhurst Park and needed to avoid the referee taking his name.
A foul on Zaha however ensured that Casemiro was shown a yellow card and the midfielder must serve a one-game ban.