After suffering three consecutive defeats, Manchester United could ill afford a slip up at Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace have recently made a habit of upsetting the big teams, Van Gaal knew that dropping points would give Liverpool hope in the bid for Champions League football next season. The atmosphere at Selhurst Park was electric and the home faithful were eager to see their beloved Eagles claim another notable scalp. With Luke Shaw returning to the starting line-up, Daley Blind returned to holding midfield which allowed Wayne Rooney to be unleashed once again in his favoured striker role. United won a penalty after a cross from Ashley Young was illegally stopped by Scott Dann’s arm, Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. After recent misses from Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata was on penalty taking duties. Mata dispatched the penalty and gave the Red Devils a crucial lead heading into half time. With Rooney unable to shake off a dead leg, Radamel Falcao was introduced at half time. United started sluggish and struggled to adapt to the tactical changes, Luke Shaw was withdrawn after suffering an elbow which left him looking shook up. Jonny Evans was introduced and Phil Jones filled the left back void. Palace sensed United’s apprehension and went for the jugular, Smalling gave away a needless free kick on Murray in a dangerous position. Puncheon converted the free kick, question marks have to be raised over United’s wall and in particularly Daley Blind, the Dutchman’s attempts to halt the ball were questionable. With Palace’s tails up, United had to sustain numerous onslaughts, Chris Smalling had to be withdrawn with cramp and Paddy McNair came into a depleted backline. David De Gea produced more heroics, twice denying Glenn Murray with fantastic reflex saves. De Gea’s heroics proved pivotal as United clinched victory through Maraoune Fellaini. Ashley Young swung in a cross and after Julian Speroni and Damien Delaney inadvertently collided, the Belgian was on hand to head in and give United a priceless three points. With Liverpool only managing a draw against champions Chelsea on Sunday, United were guaranteed fourth spot unless a significant swing in goal difference occurs. After Arsenal suffered a shock home defeat to the hands of Swansea on Monday night, the upcoming game on Sunday between Manchester United and Arsenal has added impetus with United still having the opportunity to clinch 3rd and avoid the lottery of a Champions League Play Off tie. Here are some key talking points from United’s performance against Palace:
Ashley Young continues to impress
Memphis Depay may have some challenge on his hands to oust Ashley Young in the wide left berth. Young has been a revelation under Van Gaal and has kept club record signing Angel Di Maria in the wilderness. The former Aston Villa man produced another fantastic display against Palace, Joel Ward simply couldn’t contain Young’s direct running and trickery. Since the turn of the year, Young has arguably been United’s most consistent outfield performer. Due to Young’s renaissance it is widely reported that the in form winger will be rewarded with a new deal at Old Trafford. After a year to forget last year under David Moyes, Young’s attitude and attribution to Van Gaal’s methods have been admirable and has fully deserved the plaudits coming his way.
After Iker Casillas had to endure whistling from the Real Madrid faithful on Saturday against Valencia, his heir to the throne was producing another galvanising display. David De Gea produced another remarkable save to deny Glenn Murray and rescue Manchester United once again. The Spaniard was in inspiring form once again, relieving his team of pressure and collecting all crosses from corners. Although his wall let him down for Palace’s equaliser, De Gea was simply in unbeatable form when dealing with Palace and Murray in particular. With United seemingly assured of a top four finish, attentions may switch to securing the services of the clubs most prized asset.
Building for next season begins
With Van Gaal already securing the services of Dutch talent Memphis Depay, United have made a statement of intent, wanting to get their transfer business wrapped up as early as possible. A return to the top four was Van Gaal’s objective this season and after a season of ups and downs, United have met their target. The Old Trafford faithful will expect a serious title challenge to be posed next season, with Van Gaal having a full summer to sign his players and further implement his methods/philosophies, Manchester United fans will believe after an inconsistent year they are on the right road.
Luke Shaw’s indifferent season
Luke Shaw’s season has been blighted with numerous injury setbacks, after securing a summer move to Manchester United from Southampton, Shaw has failed to play a significant run of games. After receiving criticism on his ability to maintain fitness levels and attitude in training, Shaw has had a tough start to life at Manchester United. However, the young Englishman has shown signs of his talent, Shaw’s best performance was against Chelsea where he was marauding down Chelsea’s right at will. Shaw’s focus will be on having an intense injury free pre-season which allows the former Southampton man to prepare for next season in the best possible manner.
Is Jonny Evans time up?
After the spitting scandal with Papiss Cisse, Evans has fallen down the pecking order after seeing out his six game ban. With Smalling recently penning a new deal, McNair and Jones impressing in recent weeks, Evans maybe running out of time to impress Louis Van Gaal. With summer signing Marcos Rojo yet to return from injury, Evans is arguably down to 5th choice in the centre half department. Van Gaal will no doubt target a world renowned centre half this summer, Mats Hummels is a man high up on Van Gaal’s wish list. If Van Gaal proves successful in signing a centre half, Jonny Evans may be deemed surplus to requirements in the forthcoming summer transfer window.