Manchester United suffered a home defeat to Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday after conceding a late Patrick van Aanholt goal. United can point to a missed penalty and several refereeing decisions not going there way but overall it was a disjointed performance and there are simply no excuses when a club the size of United lose at home to Palace. This article takes a specific look at how United conceded Palace’s 2nd goal. Although De Gea has to take primary responsibility in the end, there were several factors before the goal itself which led ultimately to van Aanholt’s winner.
Mata In, McTominay Out
In the 85th minute, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided to add some fresh legs and bring in Mata. Stepping into the field, Mata was supposed to provide some quick passes and creativity in the final which United were missing.
In the 88th minute United equalized with a superbly taken goal by Daniel James who was the lone bright spot for United fans.
Mata at this point was playing in McTominay’s role (deep without really moving forward) with the intention of providing long passes forward or creating through passes to the attackers.
Fast forward, 90th minute- Throw-In by Young.
Ball goes out of play and Young steps up to throw the ball in. At this point of the game crystal palace have stacked their men towards the left hand side as shown by this graphic below.
Throw in positions
Young throws the ball to Pogba and this is where things start to go wrong. Lets break this move down and analyze the specifics.
1) The trio of Mata, Young and Pogba are relatively isolated. If we discount the defenders (Lindelof and Maguire), Crystal Palace was doing an excellent job isolating the United players nearest to the ball. Young, especially is covered by almost 3 CP players left to him. This means:
- The option to Daniel James is completely negated.
- At this point, without throwing the ball backwards, Pogba is the best option. He is almost lateral to Young and has a bit of space to turn and pass forward to either Mata or a long pass to Rashford.
2) Young takes the best option and that option is Pogba. A couple of important events take place, so lets dive a little deeper:
- Young throws the ball towards the left of Pogba forcing the Frenchman to try and control it with his back towards the opponent’s goal.
- At this point the Crystal Palace playerwho was marking Mata and Benteke double up on Pogba, which Palace did very well right throughout the match.
The positions change to this:
3) Pogba has a couple of options when he receives the ball- Maguire and Bissaka. However, he decides to cut back and turn which immediately shows that Mata is completely wide open. A couple of important notes:
- Benteke has already started accelerating.
- In order for Pogba to make the cut back, he lost pace. If you look at the gif and slow it down, you notice that there is a split second where Pogba’s cut slows him down and the ball is extremely close to him.
4) Pogba takes a touch too many and Benteke with his fresh legs catches up easily. Had Pogba done a one-touch pass to Mata after his cut back, Mata would have had options with Greenwood, Rashford and a riskier one with Martial (injured).
5) Benteke tackles Pogba. Causing the other midfielder to get the ball who passes it to Benteke, who crosses it to Van Aanholt and the counter begins.
Crystal Palace Counter.
This is where Ole’s decision to sub McTominay comes back to haunt him.
Mata, does not drop fast enough to cover the hole left by Pogba and himself, when he moved forward. By trade, he is not a defensive midfielder and that is showcased by the cavalier run he makes to defend.
Look at Rashford’s tracking back in comparison to Mata here:
Rashford vs Mata- Picture 1
and here: Rashford vs Mata- Picture 2
Lindelof’s positioning in the second Image is really damning as he should be lined up with Maguire supporting Bissakka.
In this phase of play, Bissakka and Rashford and the only people who seem to recognize the threat or at least the only ones who respond fast enough to the incoming threat. Mata on the other hand should have at least tried to pick up Van Aanholt as they were side by side and in fact that would be what his role is here.
Goal goes in: Manchester United 1 – Crystal Palace 2.
1) Pogba needs to really work on better decision making especially when it comes to holding the ball. He takes too many touches and even the goal that United scored started with him losing possession (and regaining it back) due to poor decision making.
2) Lack of movement from United players. This has been an issue ever since the David Moyes days at United. Every player in possession should have passing options always open. When the opposing side closes on to the player in possession, it is the other players’ duty to make runs to the distract the opposition or support the player in possession by offering up passing options.
3) Ole’s in-game tactical management leaves a lot to be desired. He waited too long to bring in Mata and when he did it was in the wrong position. A midfield of Pogba & Mata even when United are chasing the game is simply not effective.
4) Honestly, De Gea did the best he could. The work of a keeper is hard enough and with the proximity of where Van Aanholt was, mistakes were bound to happen. But United need to decide whether they are happy to offer De Gea a massive new contract. There has been some signs of decline ever since the World Cup in Russia and by offering a massive contract to a declining player, they might end up with another Alexis Sanchez situation.
Written by basalamader