Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Disjointed Man Utd lose on EPL return

Published:Sunday | September 20, 2020 | 6:38 AM
Manchester United’s Anthony Martial (left) and Crystal Palace’s James McArthur challenge for the ball during the English Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, yesterday. Pa
Manchester United’s Anthony Martial (left) and Crystal Palace’s James McArthur challenge for the ball during the English Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, yesterday. Palace won 3-1.

Manchester United began their Premier League campaign with a performance as disjointed as their offseason.

Maybe the 3-1 home loss to Crystal Palace yesterday shouldn’t really have come as a surprise.

After all, United only ended a pandemic-prolonged 2019-20 season 33 days ago with a demoralising loss to Sevilla in the Europa League semi-finals. Since then, high-profile midfielder Paul Pogba contracted the coronavirus, captain Harry Maguire was convicted of assault in Greece (he has been granted a retrial), and young star Mason Greenwood was dropped by England – and made to train alone – for breaching coronavirus rules.

To top it all off, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was without the majority of his squad for more than a week because of international commitments.

Still, how to explain such a listless display against an injury-hit Palace team?

“Today,” Solskjaer said, “was a performance you don’t see very often from this group.”

There was the sight of Pogba repeatedly giving the ball away. Maguire and fellow centre half Victor Lindelof constantly got twisted and turned. Marcus Rashford was peripheral on the left wing. Greenwood only played the second half.

Meanwhile, Palace – battle-hardened after a more intense preseason and an opening-day win over Southampton last weekend – simply picked off United at an empty Old Trafford.

“We knew Manchester United didn’t play last week and that we had the mental advantage,” Palace winger Andros Townsend said. “If anything, we could have won it by more.”

OPENING GOAL

Townsend scored the opening goal in the seventh minute and former United winger Wilfried Zaha netted twice in the final 16 minutes, the first being a retaken penalty after United goalkeeper David de Gea was adjudged to have encroached before saving the initial spot kick taken by Jordan Ayew.

The only positive for United was a debut goal for offseason signing Donny van de Beek, who came off the bench and made it 2-1 in the 80th with a precise finish following a mistake by Palace.

Two games in and James Rodriguez is already making a big impact at Everton.

The Colombia playmaker scored his first goal in English football and set up the last of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s three goals, as Everton overwhelmed 10-man West Bromwich Albion in a 5-2 win at Goodison Park.

Meanwhile, Eddie Nketiah came off the bench to score an 85th-minute winner, as Arsenal beat West Ham 2-1 for a second straight victory.

Alexandre Lacazette’s opener for Arsenal had been cancelled out by a well-worked team goal finished off by Michail Antonio just before half-time.