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Crystal Palace vs Manchester United: Five things we learned from forgettable midweek draw

Karl Matchett
·5-min read
 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Crystal Palace held Manchester United to a 0-0 draw in what was a largely dreadful Premier League match on Wednesday night.

A very low-key first half saw both teams misplace passes with regularity, with the closest sight of goal being Nemanja Matic’s deflected shot from outside the box, well tipped-over by Vicente Guaita.

After the break it was much of the same, with United occasionally threatening with build-up play down the flank, but ultimately having a woeful lack of end product. Palace, meanwhile, remained a vague threat on the counter, but without much intent to constantly push players forward.

READ MORE: Premier League fixtures and table - all matches by date and kick-off time

Andre Ayew saw a shot saved at the near post and Mason Greenwood curled an effort just over the crossbar at the other end, but the biggest chance fell to Patrick Van Aanholt who saw his late shot saved by Dean Henderson.

Here are five things we learned from the game at Selhurst Park.

Henderson’s half-chance

For a backup goalkeeper, this being a 14th appearance of the season in all competitions would usually represent a surprisingly high tally.

For Dean Henderson, it’s nowhere near enough - he wants to be the undisputed starter, he wants to play for club and country and he wants to show he deserves both, not just be handed those positions by default.

The problem has been that, as in games such as against Real Sociedad and West Ham in the FA Cup recently, matches he is picked in have not seen United come under regular and sustained pressure.

In league play, he was in against Sheffield United and conceded twice from three shots on target, only faced the same number of efforts in his 45 minutes against Southampton and conceded one from six against West Ham.

Here, Palace had one effort on goal. A few aerial takes were commanding, his footwork was mostly good..but it wasn’t the type of game he could honestly say allowed him to impress, or find rhythm quickly - with the sole, but notable, exception of a late one-on-one stop against Van Aanholt.

With David de Gea missing the match for personal reasons, perhaps there will be another occasion to stake his claim at the weekend.

Uninspired United

Neither side covered themselves in glory with their attacking play, but with the away side second in the table the emphasis was on them to seize the initiative and seek out the points - which they largely/entirely failed to do.

It was slow, ponderous and utterly without guile, with just a few occasions opening space down the wings to deliver low crosses but otherwise lacking any kind of creativity or invention.

This is not the first time Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team have laboured through a 90 minutes; in the aforementioned game against the Blades they lost 2-1, while against the Hammers in the cup they needed extra time to bludgeon their way to a win.

There was no such reprieve here and they never looked like breaking the deadlock.

Previously porous Palace

At 0-0 heading into the last 10 minutes, Palace fans could perhaps be forgiven for having some trepidation, given they were top of an unwanted stat in league play: 12 conceded in the final quarter of an hour, more than any other team.

However, with United having a single shot on target all game long, there simply wasn’t any danger of the home side imploding on this occasion.

Roy Hodgson’s side were well-organised, hard-working and disciplined throughout, though again it’s worth noting they were hardly tested at any stage.

Certainly there was no late onslaught and a clean sheet was more than welcome.

Different displays

Given the manner of the game, it’s worth noting which players were particularly dismal, either for them to pick up their form in the next match...or else to find it unsurprising if they are left off the teamsheet accordingly.

At the back, Harry Maguire had a fairly torrid night, losing out to Christian Benteke early on and Ayew soon after, with poor passing, missed interceptions and being caught out of position all features of his night.

Marcus Rashford was similarly anonymous, missing several good chances to combine in the final third and offering very little in terms of goal threat.

At the other end of the scale, Cheikhou Kouyate was particularly solid for the home side, making plenty of clearances from his centre-back role and looking assured when it came to a footrace across the ground, while Luke Shaw once again proved a good outlet for United and was reliable in possession.

League latest

Leicester’s draw earlier in the evening saw them move level on points with Manchester United, so a similar point for the Red Devils takes them clear in second.

A title challenge, if it ever existed, is now well out of the question - they’ve taken seven points from the last 15 available, while City haven’t dropped a single one.

Instead, with City up next at the weekend, United must now look down and ensure they keep a buffer between themselves and fifth place; the gap there is currently seven points, but it’s certain to close later in the week with Liverpool hosting Chelsea.

As for Palace, they continue to tread water in mid-table and should see out the season in relative comfort and anonymity.

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