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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Manchester United bow to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford

Manchester United bow to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford

A sensational counter-attacking team performance, and a fine first-half finish from Joachim Andersen, saw Crystal Palace memorably wreak revenge on Manchester United at Old Trafford.

In the build-up to kick-off both Palace players and management had spoken about the difference of occasion between the Carabao Cup in midweek and Premier League on Saturday afternoon – and so the case well and truly proved in the first-half.

Where the game had simply got away from the Eagles in the opening stages in midweek, this time, they looked resolute in defence and – despite a similar gulf in possession – the more threatening side on the counter-attack.

For all the hosts’ early pressure, it was Palace who could have taken the lead with 10 minutes gone. A half-cleared corner-kick was retrieved by Will Hughes and passed back to Joachim Andersen who swept a cross towards the near post.

Centre-back to centre-back, Marc Guéhi found himself unmarked and – with his back to goal – arched his back, but could not direct his header inside the far post.

Immediately up the other end, however, Palace were indebted to the pace of Tyrick Mitchell, the full-back racing back to hack clear Rasmus Hojlund’s goalbound effort after the Dane had ran clean through and prodded past Sam Johnstone.

While Ebere Eze’s clever running was opening up spaces in the final third, it was his delivery from set-pieces which was creating the game’s best opportunities – and so the case proved as Palace took the lead on 25 minutes.

After Jordan Ayew won a free-kick high from Sofyan Amrabat, his fizzing ball bounced right the way across goal, sitting perfectly for Andersen to strike sweetly on the half-volley, the ball crashing into the top corner of the net.

Manchester United attempted to hit back straight away as Casemiro saw his own sweeping half-volley sail wide from the edge of the box, but it was almost a case of déja vu moments later when Eze’s corner dropped to Andersen – the Dane’s finish this time blocked by Amrabat.

The pattern of play continued: United playing the ball around the edge of the box, but unable to break down Palace’s low block, whilst Eze, Mateta, Ayew and Schlupp enjoyed plenty of space to play in transition.

Perhaps United’s best chance came in the closing seconds of the first-half, but Casemiro, on target from a corner in midweek, this time could not keep his header down.

As perhaps to be expected, it was Manchester United who started the second period with the greater attacking intent – yet Fernandes’ long-range pile-driver and Hojlund’s close-range header were close enough to Johnstone that the ‘keeper could tip over without too much trouble.

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And at the other end, Palace enjoyed opportunities to double their lead, Hughes’ fizzing effort from the edge of the box being beaten away by Onana moments before Schlupp’s near-post flick dropped fractions away from the far post.

As the game wore on, Ten Hag’s men continued to press forwards, a double ricochet dropping narrowly wide of the Palace goal and a header from Mason Mount – yards from goal – somehow clearing the crossbar.

But it was just reward for Palace’s sheer doggedness and endeavour, with Eze – once again leading a counter-attack after a quick exchange of passes with Ayew on the halfway line – prodding past the far post as Mateta’s run drew defenders away.

As time ticked on, and the home crowd became increasingly anxious, Manchester United’s attacks became increasingly direct – and their penalty appeals, through Rashford and Hojlund, arguably more tenuous.

There was still one moment of panic to navigate, as Diogo Dalot’s cross deflected up and over Johnstone. True to form, Andersen was in the right place at the right time to divert the ball off the goal-line, before Guéhi blocked Alejandro Garnacho’s follow-up on his chest.

As the full-time whistle sounded, the remarkable Palace support – who had battled rail strikes to make their second trip to Manchester in five days – were the only noise anybody in Old Trafford could hear.

A counter-attacking display for the ages – and one which saw Hodgson become the first-ever manager to go five consecutive away Premier League games unbeaten at Old Trafford.


Manchester United: Onana (GK), Dalot, Varane (Maguire, 87), Lindelöf (Van de Beek, 88), Amrabat, Casemiro, Mount (Martial, 77), Pellistri (Garnacho, 61), Fernandes, Rashford (Eriksen, 77), Hojlund

Subs: Bayindir (GK), Evans, McTominay, Hannibal, Garnacho

Palace: Johnstone (GK), Ward, Andersen, Guéhi, Mitchell, Doucouré, Hughes, Ayew, Schlupp (Rïedewald, 78), Eze (Richards, 88), Mateta

Subs: Matthews (GK), Holding, Clyne, Ozoh, Ebiowei, Rak-Sakyi, Ola-Adebomi

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