What was meant to be an ‘easy’ win against a nearly relegated Aston Villa side on Saturday turned out to be yet another boring, long winded 1-0 win for Louis van Gaal’s side.
Though results are more important than performances at this stage of the season, it was sad to see United making the task of winning a game at Old Trafford seem so dull and uninspiring. At least things were a lot better on Wednesday evening’s win against Pardew’s Palace.
The starting line-up for Saturday’s game looked strong enough, especially considering the opposition. Fellaini kept his place, but with players like Mata, Memphis, Rashford and Rooney around him, United looked like they had more than enough creativity against a very poor Villa side.
Captain Rooney was pulling the strings and kept things moving along nicely in the first half, and it was from his quick thinking and pin-point pass to Valencia that United took the lead. The Ecuadorian found Rashford in the box, who swept the ball past Brad Guzan after half-an-hour. Unfortunately that was as good as it got as United trudged and plodded all the way through to the final whistle.
Luckily Aston Villa were one of the worst Premier League sides that ever graced the Old Trafford turf, and though Gestede hit the post for them with a few minutes to go, Rashford’s goal was enough for an important three points that gets United closer to the top four, while also relegating Villa officially.
Four days later Crystal Palace made their trip to Old Trafford with an FA Cup semi-final in mind, and it showed from their starting line-up. Van Gaal could have done the same before United meet Everton at Wembley, but opted for a more than decent eleven to try and stay on City’s and Arsenal’s coat-tails in the table.
That they duly did as Delaney scored an own-goal after just four minutes to put United into a lead that never looked in doubt. It gave the team impetus to play one of the best games they have at home this season. If not for Palace keeper Speroni and his many saves, United could have run up a cricket score even by half-time, where for once they attacked and created plenty of chances, with six shots on target by the midway point.
The second half was more of the same, and Darmian made sure of the points with a brilliant finish after fifty-five minutes. What a way to get your first goal for the club, right in front of the Stretford End as well.
When the final whistle went, it was a relief to see not just another win, but a very good performance that was the opposite of the slow-paced, turgid football that United had come up with against Aston Villa. Many of those playing against Palace had an excellent game, including Rashford, Martial, Schneiderlin, Valencia and Captain Rooney.
Pity that thousands of fans didn’t turn up for this one as they’d have enjoyed the way United played for once. Most of them will not have gone because of the game being moved from its original date, but many others will probably not have bothered especially after Saturday’s labored win, the kind of which we’ve seen many of this season. Hopefully the club will take note of this and make the necessary changes otherwise we’ll be seeing more and more empty seats in the future. From the way things are going, it seems that ‘early bird’ season ticket renewals aren’t going as well as the club would have liked.
In other games from the Premier League, Leicester drew 2-2 at home to West Ham, who then beat Watford 3-1. Watford themselves had won 1-0 at West Brom at the weekend; Tottenham reduced the gap to five points after putting on a show in their 4-0 win at Stoke; Manchester City climbed into third place by beating Chelsea 3-0 then drawing 1-1 at Newcastle; Arsenal drew 1-1 at home to Palace in their best effort to retain their fourth placed trophy; L’pool won 2-1 at Bournemouth, then won a one-sided derby 4-0 at home to Everton, who had managed a 1-1 draw at home to Southampton at the weekend; Norwich were dragged back into the relegation battle by Sunderland, who beat them 3-0 at Carrow Road; and Newcastle beat Swansea by the same score line before getting an important point against City.
United only play once in the next week, but it’s a big one as they travel to Wembley to face Everton in the FA Cup semi-final (Saturday 5:15pm UK time). While it won’t be easy, we will all be hoping that the team performs like they did against Palace on the way to set themselves up with another trip to Wembley for the final… COME ON UNITED!!!