Ian Holloway’s men took on the Champions at Old Trafford hoping for a positive result. If not daunting enough a task, the game was made even harder for them as central midfield player Dikgacoi received a red card after a very dubious penalty decision on the 45th minute from Jonathon Moss. Up to that point Manchester United failed to create any quality chances and instead seemed to keep possession ticking over at a very slow tempo.
Although completing more than 6 times the final third passes (137) than Palace managed (22), United only managed to create 1 more clear cut scoring chance than Crystal Palace. Although one game, albeit early on in the season, these stats suggest that Manchester United definitely lack a play-making influence in the final third. An anonymous display from Brazilian midfielder Anderson, coupled with the recent ineffectiveness of Tom Cleverly opens the door for £27.5 million signing Fellaini to start alongside Michael Carrick in the next fixture, but can the tall Belgian be the solution?
Manchester United overly reliant on attacking transitions?
Manchester United within the first 8 seconds of winning the ball back constantly attempted to get the ball out wide to either Valencia or Young within the first 2-3 passes. Carrick was usually the main instigator of these transitions, using his passing vision to find the rigidly positioned wide men out on the flanks. Touching the ball a total of 97 times (more than any other player), Carrick sat deep and set up multiple crossing opportunities for the two wingers who attempted a huge 32 crosses compared to the nil that Crystal Palace attempted. However, the fact that only 5 of these crosses were actually accurate will surely worry Moyes after a lack of investment in the wide areas. Throughout a rather dull first half for United, these instances were the only points in which they looked somewhat threatening and were rather bailed out with a very fortunate penalty decision.
United’s probing phase causing RVP problems
Manchester United’s extreme pondering nature in the probing/possession phase of their attack left Van Persie with little opportunity to utilise his immense quality. Even though Man Utd retained 60.4% of the possession, Van Persie only managed to make 47 touches of the ball; just 3 more than Palace’s front man Marouane Chamakh. Van Persie’s lack of involvement greatly limited his chance creation ability (he did not create a single chance in the game) which United most certainly need more of due to lack of a more advanced play-maker, no more illustrated by both goals arriving from dead ball situations.
Fellaini adding presence, what about culture?
Marouane Fellaini entered the pitch for his debut on the 62nd minute and was able to add a physical presence to the Manchester United midfield. He won both of his ground duels and 50% of his aerial duels (2), in a decent debut but does he offer enough going forward? Crystal Palace dropped even deeper in the second half as to be expected with a 1 man disadvantage and rarely moved out of their 4-4-1 defensive block shape.
Looking at the passes Marouane Fellaini played in the attacking third, both of the vertical passes he attempted failed to reach his man. Although only his first game for the team, it would seem Fellaini may not be best suited to threading balls through tight spaces in the more advanced areas, instead, utilized in a role which makes the most of his huge aerial prowess to create chances for the likes of Robin Van Persie.
A very difficult game to take anything of note from for either manager, especially as Crystal Palace were forced to play the entire second half with a man less. Moyes managed to get his first win at Old Trafford but will not be overly satisfied with his team struggling greatly to break down a low block opposition defense, making the transfer failures of Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas stand out even more. However, in Fellaini they have a huge target and a great header of the ball, may it be time for Moyes to adopt a longer (quicker transitioning) passing game?