(Photo by jarmoluk/Pixabay)
A toothless Manchester United side have scored another 0-0 draw, their sixth of the season, and third in a row in all competitions. Tonight’s tepid encounter saw the Red Devils fail to find the back of the net at Crystal Palace.
Despite having 62% of possession, United could only muster one shot on target for the evening. But for a top-drawer save by Vicente Guaita from the thunderous Nemanja Matic shot, United could have gone home with a somewhat undeserved 1-0 and put some breathing space between them and their top 4 challengers.
But it wasn’t to be, and Manchester City now disappear further into the distance.
In fact, Crystal Palace can also feel aggrieved not to have come out victorious, as right at the death Patrick van Aanholt was clear through in a one-on-one duel with Dean Henderson, but a world-class save from United’s stopper preserved the clean sheet and extended United’s unbeaten away record.
That Henderson was awarded United’s ‘Man of the Match’ for his last-gasp heroics speaks volumes of just how bad United were, and what a slump they find themselves mired in.
With fixtures against Manchester City, AC Milan, fourth placed West Ham, and Leicester to come before the international break, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his work cut out for him if he wants to avoid yet another late season slump.
The manager was disappointed, and felt his side weren’t at their best on a cold night in South London.
“[It was] Disappointing. Just a little bit off and I think I said to you before the game when you’re off and not spot on you’re not going to win games. Palace are a side that always make it hard for you and they did again. In the first half we were too slow to start with. They had a bright start. We played well for a little spell, but couldn’t score the goal. In the second half we never got going. We made some changes and we had one or two decent opportunities, but not enough of course. We had a couple of moments but we didn't take them. They didn't have much either. It was a game that probably deserved to be a draw and none of us probably deserved to score. That's sometimes just the way it works out. We didn't find the quality that we normally see because we know the attitude and the approach to the game is right.”
“The last week has been three games, we haven't conceded, we haven't scored, but we're talking about a week in a year that has been so strange and so demanding with all the games we have played and all the recovery and training, everything we have done. If all we have to worry about is one week during a season, that's not too bad. We kept giving the ball away. There were times in the first half when we had some crisp passing and players in the right positions with simple passes, but quality passes, and we built some pressure and had some half-decent chances. Marcus [Rashford] had a good chance in the first half with some good play, but we kept giving it away easily and then you don’t build momentum and that’s the game you get.”
“Sometimes it’s human nature, sometimes you don’t work at your best and today we didn’t unfortunately. It’s been a long season… I’m not going to put any blame on that because everyone has got the same season. That’s part of it. You’re playing against a good team that make you play the way they want you to at times and when you don’t have the quality and tempo we should have had.”
“It’s not what we want but that’s football. We’re in the Premier League and you have to play better to win games. We know we’re in a battle to be as high in the table as possible and we’ve seen other results sometimes go like we don’t expect. We know we’re in a fight and we need to pick up every point we can.”
First-choice keeper David de Gea was given the evening off for personal reasons, and Solskjaer had much to be thankful for when his replacement Dean Henderson ensured the result wasn’t worse than a scoreless draw.
“That’s [how it is for] a Man United goalkeeper sometimes, you have to keep your concentration and he’s growing into that position. It was a great save, I didn’t know if the player was off [side] or not, but Dean showed good concentration and good reactions so I thank him for one point and not zero, well done.”
Up next Solskjaer takes his men to Etihad Stadium to visit a rampant Manchester City side who can smell another Premier League trophy, but the boss hopes his boys can help delay their neighbours celebrations.
“The attitude, the approach, everyone here is giving everything they've got. That's the brilliant thing with these boys, they always give everything so don't worry about not getting going. We're getting going and of course, there's extra spice when there's a derby. And the little bit of frustration or disappointment or feeling sorry for themselves tonight, that will come back to motivation and inspiration for the next game because when you play them, you know that means a lot for us and that means a lot for the fans, and we're going to give everything,” concluded Solskjaer.
Often a derby win is just the tonic a faltering team needs to turn their fortunes around. However, on current form, one wonders where United’s next goal will come from, let alone their next win…