Manchester United got their season off to a terrible start today, deservedly losing 3-1 at home to Crystal Palace.
Roy Hodgson’s side began the game the much brighter of the teams and their impressive start was rewarded with an opening goal after just six minutes, Palace winger Andros Townsend firing an excellent back post finish back across David de Gea and into the far corner after being found with a low driven cross from Jeffrey Schlupp.
Man United gradually began to wake from their slumber as the first-half wore on with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes both forcing Vicente Guaita into decent stops with shots from the edge of the area.
The home side began to dominate possession but they struggled to break down Palace’s well drilled defensive unit and the Eagles almost doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time, Ayew forcing De Gea into a fine reflex stop from close range.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought teenage attacker Mason Greenwood on at the break and the youngster spurned an excellent chance to draw the scores level on the hour mark, United’s new number 11 missing a free header from six yards out.
Palace were handed a golden opportunity to go two up with 20 minutes to go when Victor Lindelof was harshly adjudged to have handled the ball in the area, but the Ghanian forward saw his unconvincing spot kicked saved by De Gea. However, the Eagles were handed another go from the spot when VAR ruled that De Gea had been inches off his line when Ayew struck the ball and former United man Wilf Zaha stepped and smashed the retaken penalty into the roof of the net.
United would strike back in the 80th minute though through new signing Donny van de Beek, the 23-year-old Holland international guiding a low finish into the bottom corner after a defensive mix up between Joel Ward and Cheikhou Kouyate.
However, any hopes the Red Devils had of staging a comeback were soon dashed when the impressive Zaha brushed off a weak challenge from Lindelof and fired a low effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
The game was United’s first of the season while Palace have already played once in the Premier League and once in the Carabao Cup, and speaking afterwards Red Devils boss Solskjaer suggested that that extra bit of match sharpness was behind his side being second best throughout.
“Yes you can see we are short and they deserved the points,” Solskjaer told manutd.com.
”They were sharper than us in the chances, the tackles. We started off slowly and that had a knock on affect for the rest of the game and they got the first goal.”
“We had a long season last season and didn’t finish until 16 August and we have not had preparation time to be sharper. Of course, we have worked hard with the ones who have been here.
“There have been a few players on internationals but I believe when I spoke to Roy (Hodgson) they have had four friendlies and three competitive games and that was a bit different to our one against Aston Villa last week.”
United fans have had to watch many of their rivals strengthen their squads with quality additions over the summer, and the clubs approach in the transfer market has once again come in for fierce criticism. However, when asked about potential signings befor next months deadline, Solskjaer first pointed out that his players need to perform better then they did today, although he said the club would look to bring in reinforcements if they are available at the ‘right price’ – a comment that does little to suggest United will match Borussia Dortmund’s £108 million asking price for primary target Jadon Sancho.
“Well, we can play so much better than today,” Solskjaer continued.
“If you look at the players we had on the pitch and on the bench and those not here we need to look within first. We need to look at ourselves and know that we have to perform better.
“Then again we are always looking to improve if there is something out there that is available at the right price. We always want to strengthen. But we can all look at ourselves in the mirror first.”
United will look to get their season on track next weekend when they travel to the South Coast to face Graham Potter’s Brighton, while they will also face Championship side Luton Town in the Carabao Cup in midweek.