10 The Daily Telegraph Monday 21 September 2020 *** Total Football How Hodgson outwitted Solskjaer Palace delivered the perfect tactical away performance at Old Trafford on Saturday Where play occurred in first 10 minutes Palace’s average 1st half positions Defensive* actions by McCarthy and McArthur Where Palace attacked Zaha’s touches Direction of play Direction of play Direction of play Palace’s third 6% 50% 23% 27% *Defined as tackes, blocks, interceptions, clearances and recoveries Palace’s average 2nd half positions United’s shots Blocked Off target On target Direction of play Middle third 72% United’s third 22% Urgent issues United manager must fix at Old Trafford By James Ducker “It’s a 50-50. It’s weak.” Maguire is the costliest defender in the world at £85million but, like Lindelof, has the turning circle of an oil tanker and Solskjaer’s concerns about how the England defender’s arrest ordeal in Mykonos last month might affect the player’s state of mind this season will only have deepened after this erratic showing. Yes, goalkeeper David de Gea will feel aggrieved he was punished for moving marginally off his line when saving Ayew’s penalty before Zaha scored the retake, but United were the architects of their own downfall. United have an interest in the RB Leipzig centre-half Dayot Upamecano but, with seven central defenders already on their books, Solskjaer needs to offload players first. who have spent around £900 million on transfers in the past seven years did not have more appealing alternatives. That Wilfried Zaha, the sole recognised right-sided forward United have signed over that period bar James, was the man who ran them ragged will only have added to the sense of disquiet among United fans. months of last season and whose half-time substitution had a weary inevitability to it, and, at right-back, Timothy Fosu-Mensah. Fulham did not consider FosuMensah to be up to it in the Premier League two seasons ago and, given that Roy Hodgson, the Palace manager, had the Dutchman on loan at Selhurst Park the previous year, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to start him was a head-scratcher. Hodgson knew Fosu-Mensah’s flaws and it was no surprise to see an energetic, well-drilled Palace target United’s fragile, inexperienced right side from the off. Over half of Palace’s attacks during the game came down that flank. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, a £50million signing from Palace last summer, may not have been fit enough to start and Fosu-Mensah did improve and provided the cross from which Donny van de Beek scored on his debut, the game’s one bright spot for United. But it is troubling that a club Manchester Utd 1-3 Crystal Palace Worrying home defeat in their Premier League opener exposed a number of problems that Solskjaer must address Centre-half headaches A right mess For a club with designs on closing the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City, it was a chilling start to the new season for Manchester United. There was no more glaring indication of the unplugged weaknesses in their squad than a right flank in the lamentable 3-1 defeat by Crystal Palace that had a distinctly Championship flavour to it. Where United fans hoped to have had Jadon Sancho on the right wing by now, they instead had Daniel James, seldom seen during the final “You can talk about [Jadon] Sancho all you like, but until they get a centre-back in who can run and defend one-on-one, you’re never going to win a league,” Gary Neville, the former United captain, said in his scathing analysis of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire. Neither player has ever been comfortable defending one-on-one against pace, but the extent of their discomfort in those positions was brutally exposed by Palace’s fast, direct trio of Zaha, Jordan Ayew and Lindelof was culpable in all three goals, albeit unfortunate to be penalised for handball for the controversial second, but the ease with which the Swede was spun and outmuscled by Zaha for the third goal was further evidence of what a soft touch he can be. “He’s just not strong enough there,” Neville said. Transfer intransigence “I think we need more players to strengthen the squad,” Luke Shaw admitted. “It can give us a boost.
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