Manchester United began its Premier League campaign with a performance as disjointed as its offseason. Maybe the 3-1 home loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday shouldn´t really have come as a surprise.
After all, United only ended a pandemic-prolonged 2019-20 season 33 days ago with a demoralizing loss to Sevilla in the Europa League semifinals. Since then, high-profile midfielder Paul Pogba contracted the coronavirus, captain Harry Maguire was convicted of assault in Greece (he has been granted a retrial), and young star Mason Greenwood was dropped by England – and made to train alone – for breaching coronavirus rules.
To top it all off, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was without the majority of his squad for more than a week because of international commitments.
Still, how to explain such a listless display against an injury-hit Palace team?
“Today,” Solskjaer said, “was a performance you don´t see very often from this group.”
There was the sight of Pogba repeatedly giving the ball away. Maguire and fellow center half Victor Lindelof constantly got twisted and turned. Marcus Rashford was peripheral on the left wing. Greenwood only played the second half.
Meanwhile, Palace – battle-hardened after a more intense preseason and an opening-day win over Southampton last weekend – simply picked off United at an empty Old Trafford.
“We knew Manchester United didn´t play last week and that we had the mental advantage,” Palace winger Andros Townsend said. “If anything, we could have won it by more.”
Townsend scored the opening goal in the seventh minute and former United winger Wilfried Zaha netted twice in the final 16 minutes, the first being a retaken penalty after United goalkeeper David de Gea was adjudged to have encroached before saving the initial spot kick taken by Jordan Ayew.
The only positive for United was a debut goal for offseason signing Donny van de Beek, who came off the bench and made it 2-1 in the 80th with a precise finish following a mistake by Palace.
United should improve as the season progresses and perhaps more players are signed to add depth to the squad.
Solskjaer will sure hope so.
Crystal Palace have won consecutive league games away against Man Utd for the first time; they’re just the second London club to win consecutively in the Premier League at Old Trafford after Tottenham in 2012-13/2013-14.
Manchester United have lost their opening home game to a Premier League campaign for the just the third time, also losing vs Everton in 1992-93 and Swansea in 2014-15.
Crystal Palace scored more than twice for the first time in 40 Premier League games, since beating Bournemouth 5-3 on the final day of the 2018-19 campaign.
Palace’s Zaha has scored in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since November 2019 – his two strikes were his first goal involvements in his 10th Premier League appearance against former club Manchester United.
Crystal Palace’s Townsend has already matched his Premier League goal tally from last season (one), with this his first league goal in 20 games since netting against Norwich in September 2019.
Manchester United keeper De Gea has failed to save any of the past 18 penalties he’s faced in the Premier League, last keeping one out from Everton’s Leighton Baines in October 2014.
Van de Beek became the 20th player to score on his Premier League debut for Manchester United, and the 10th of those to do so as a substitute, Explorenewsng reports