Tuesday 18 December 2018

Their worst start to a season in 28 years - Man United struggle to goalless stalemate with Crystal Palace

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is under pressure after overseeing the club's worst start to a season in 28 years REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is under pressure after overseeing the club's worst start to a season in 28 years REUTERS/Andrew Yates

Simon Peach

Manchester United stuttered to an uninspiring goalless draw at home to struggling Crystal Palace as Jose Mourinho's disjointed side fell further behind the leading pack.

Boos greeted the final whistle at Old Trafford, such was the home side's listless performance against a side without a Premier League win for 10 weeks.

Roy Hodgson's men threatened to leave United with all three points for the first time since 1989, but Palace had to make do with a 0-0 as the hosts failed to get the win they desperately needed to kick-start their campaign.

Mourinho's men are now an eye-watering 14 points behind table-topping Manchester City and, more worryingly, let this great chance to reduce the gap to the top four pass.

United were tepid against a Palace side whose performance belied their lowly standing, with Wilfried Zaha tormenting his former club and Cheikhou Kouyate seeing a goal ruled out for offside on an afternoon when Patrick Van Aanholt and Andros Townsend wasted glorious chances.

Chris Smalling missed his own gilt-edged chance and Romelu Lukaku saw a goal disallowed for offside, but it was not a performance that satisfied the Old Trafford faithful. Ineffective Paul Pogba's substitution was greeted warmly and groans turned to loud jeers at full-time.

Things had looked so bright for United in the opening minutes, with Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial - players picked out for apparent criticism recently by Mourinho - looking lively.

Such was the early threat, Palace captain Luka Milivojevic collected a booing for scything down Lingard - a nasty challenge that not only halted United's break but their promising start.

Hodgson's side began to prod United's shaky backline and Zaha looked determined to hurt his former employers, flashing over from 20 yards before Palace capitalised on some sloppy play and he fizzed a low shot just wide.

Cumbersome Pogba's first-time effort was the best United could muster as the visitors scented blood, with Van Aanholt wasting a glorious chance in the after Zaha won the ball in his own half and eventually sent over an inviting cross.

Smalling somehow failed to direct a fine Juan Mata free-kick wide at the far post as attention turned to the other end - a cross Wayne Hennessey was guilty of missing, only to quickly atone by superbly denying Lingard and Martial's weak follow-up.

Palace ended the first half on top and thought they had made the breakthrough as Milivojevic's free-kick caused problems, with Kouyate and Victor Lindelof rising to head the ball into David De Gea's goal.

But remonstrations quickly replaced celebrations as Palace saw their goal ruled out for offside.

United responded with a strong start to the second period, with the same flag denying another goal in the 56th minute as Hennessey failed to deal with a stinging Ashley Young attempt and Lukaku turned home.

Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini came on for Mata and an unhappy-looking Lingard as Mourinho looked to change the dynamics of a match that would have swung Palace's way had De Gea not got down well to deny Kouyate, before then stopping the follow-up.

Pogba was replaced by Alexis Sanchez to some cheers and, after a break in play following a late Fellaini challenge that left Milivojevic in pain, Palace went close again as Townsend turned wide.

Martial hit the side netting and Lukaku saw a header stopped by a one-handed Hennessey save as United knocked relentlessly on the door towards the end, with Rashford seeing an effort deflected just wide.

But Palace were not to be caught late on an afternoon where they outshone the lacklustre hosts for large periods.

Online Editors

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