No openings for Martial as Palace keep the pressure up
Manchester United’s third goalless draw in a row leaves fans and players frustrated
Anthony Martial: French teenager deprived of space to attack at Selhurst Park. Photograph: Tony O’Brien/Reuters
Crystal Palace 0; Manchester United 0
Perhaps a lull after the whirlwind was inevitable. Anthony Martial spent quite a lot of Saturday afternoon drifting on the wing at Selhurst Park, on the periphery, generally well marked and marshalled and deprived of inviting spaces and clever passes to attack. He looked, perhaps understandably, a little flat. Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney chugged along at centre forward without making inroads either. Eventually they switched positions, but by then the tone of this blunt game was pretty well set.
Alan Pardew was reluctant to get too involved in the analysis of United’s current attacking concept, but in outlining how Crystal Palace set about their preparations for this game, he shone a fascinating light on the Rooney-Martial conundrum. Louis van Gaal continues to prefer the United captain up front, with the French teenager back in the position where he spent most of his apprenticeship in France after such an eventful opening salvo as the centrepiece of United’s frontline. But Pardew was clear about the danger Palace were most concerned about.
“We didn’t give Martial an inch today,” assessed the Palace manager. “Not an inch. It was a big target for us to stop him and we felt if we could stop him, we could stop their creative angle. When you take into account his age, that’s some recommendation, by the way. Our analysis is much greater than it has ever been. Our information is much greater so to protect ourselves against the top players, we have greater awareness.
Without much in the way of goal action to talk about, the debate about Manchester United’s possession style under Van Gaal won’t go away. It was telling that the thirst for goals seemed far more intense in the stands than on the pitch, where the away support showed their agitation over the absence of the sparky gusto that used to characterise United when they were in need of goals. A sequence of nil-nil draws niggles, and Van Gaal is hoping United’s meeting with CSKA Moscow tomorrow will allow his team to rediscover some potency. United’s last goal, incidentally, came in the away game in Russia via Martial’s header.
‘Special player’Yohan CabayePremier League
Cabaye articulated a view that would perhaps resonate with United fans who chanted for their team to “attack, attack, attack”. The Palace captain felt their gameplan was less dangerous than the United of old. “I remember I played against them for Newcastle and they could score at every moment in a game. Here they did not have the big chances to score. Passes, passes, passes. But if you work hard against them and stay in a good shape they can’t do anything to pass through you or be adventurous.”
United are hoping the spark will come back soon enough, sending the message that a moment to regroup after a sobering 3-0 defeat at Arsenal is a natural part of the process.
“We have the players to score goals and we will score goals,” said Morgan Schneiderlin. “It will come if we keep believing. It doesn’t matter if you are second, third, fourth or fifth in November. What matters is to be first at the end of May and win the games.
“Every team is going to go through a period where they don’t score goals. It’s up to us to win games and overtake those teams.” – (Guardian Service)