Monday 16 September 2019

Streetwise Hodgson all smiles as he plots another Palace coup

Van Aanholt: Match winner. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Van Aanholt: Match winner. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Adam Lanigan

Roy Hodgson could do nothing but smile when informed in his post-match press conference that he had become the first Crystal Palace manager to beat Manchester United in the Premier League after their stunning 2-1 victory on Saturday.

At 72 years old, Hodgson could quite easily be sat at home enjoying life with his family, but he remains at the cutting edge of management, still putting to good use all the lessons he has learnt from more than 40 years' experience managing teams such as Liverpool, Inter Milan, Switzerland and England.

Palace's win was their first in the league at Old Trafford since December 1989 and their first in the league over United since May 1991 - a run of 23 games.

Having not scored a goal and collected only a point from their opening two games, few were expecting their poor run against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side to end. But that is to underestimate Palace's ability on their travels.

In the past 12 months, they have won at Manchester City, Wolves, Arsenal and now United - results for which every club in the top flight would be proud.

They were the only visiting team to take any points at the Etihad last season. Nobody has won at Molineux since their success on January 2.

Palace put a big spike in Arsenal's chances of reaching the Champions League with that win at the Emirates in April and now they have burst United's bubble.

While they did not win at Anfield last season, their three goals in the 4-3 defeat accounted for 30 per cent of the total Liverpool conceded on their own patch all season. From their past 12 away games in the Premier League, Palace have won eight times.

Only the league's top two, City and Liverpool, can better that.

But what are the keys to this unlikely run of success? Perhaps the best word to describe them is streetwise.

On Saturday, Harry Maguire was one of United's oldest players in their starting line-up at 26.

That would have made him one of the youngest in the Palace team, as Jeffrey Schlupp was the baby of the group at 26.

While Palace rode their luck with a number of penalty shouts and Marcus Rashford's miss from 12 yards, they were determined opponents once Jordan Ayew had put them in front with their first attack.

Using a 4-3-3 formation, the midfield three of captain Luka Milivojevic, Cheikhou Kouyate and James McArthur offered physical and tactical intelligence in knowing when to break up play and how to manage the tempo of the game. It was an example of a Hodgson team at its best. Aided by his long-time assistant Ray Lewington, time will have been spent on the training ground working on team shape for tests like these. These are battle-hardened players who know their jobs inside out.

But to win matches, you still need a piece of magic or a stroke of fortune.

Think of Andros Townsend's wonder goal against City. Here they had that bit of luck as, shortly after conceding a Daniel James equaliser, Patrick van Aanholt adventurously charged forward from left-back in injury time, his shot squirming through David de Gea to secure their unexpected victory.


There was also personal satisfaction for Gary Cahill, who started his first Premier League game since May 2018 after being frozen out by Maurizio Sarri in his final season at Chelsea.

Hodgson worked with the centre-half during his four years in charge of the national team and decided to use Cahill's big-game experience at Old Trafford.

The 33-year-old was perhaps lucky to escape with a yellow card on the stroke of half-time when he brought down Anthony Martial just outside the area when Palace's last man, but apart from that, Cahill delivered what Hodgson wanted.

"This has been a long time coming and it feels great to be back out there," Cahill said.

"It would have been easy for us to crumble at 1-1, but to hit them on the break was great. Coming to Old Trafford always has that feeling of a huge game. The stadium with 75,000 people, these are the games you want to play in.

"It's still intimidating in terms of the crowd and the players they have, but for someone like me it's a great place to come and play.

"You are up against these top international players and there are threats all over the pitch, so that's why the result is more special." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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