Paul Pogba and debutant Joshua Harrop were on target as Manchester United defeated Crystal Palace 2-0 in their final league game of the 2016-17 season.
Mourinho named United’s youngest Premier League squad ever, as he included 8 academy graduates, 4 out of whom played full 90 minutes. The team looked pretty feeble on paper, but not on the pitch as they started on the front foot. Debutant Joshua Harrop scored a sensational strike in the 15th minute, as he pounced upon a super pass from Pogba, brilliantly cut inside to the right and unleashed a rocket past Hennessey. The provider for the first, Pogba, then scored a fine goal off his left foot after a pacey run and pass from Lingard. His celebration was pretty emotional, as he pointed to the sky in a heart-warming tribute to his father, who tragically died last week due to a terminal illness. The home side played beautiful transitional football, and the visitors had no real chance in the first half.
The second half was a bit more evenly contested, as both teams tried to score but failed to do so. Crystal Palace came closest from Benteke’s header, which bounced off the post, and Milivojevic’s free-kick, which was well saved by the 19-year-old Pereira. Mourinho then introduced Angel Gomes in the final minutes, who became Premier League’s first player to be born in the 21st century.
With this win, United capped off a mixed season as they end the season in the 6th place with 69 points, while Allardyce’s men finished 14th with 41 points.
Here are the major Talking Points from the game-
Young Guns Steal the Show
Mourinho started the game with 3 debutants, and 8 academy graduates in total as he rested his players ahead of the Ajax finale. He appeared to have fielded a team that had no chances on paper, but the youngsters ran the show as they played fantastic football to defeat a full-strength Palace side. Harrop scored a superb goal and was brilliant throughout, while Pereira and Mitchell had a good game, if not brilliant. One wonders what would’ve happened had Mourinho given more game time to his young guns, instead of playing a tired squad throughout the campaign. Maybe it’s time that he starts using more youngsters on a regular basis.
Final Hurrah for Rooney?
Wayne Rooney didn’t have his best of games, and since he’s being heavily linked to the exit door, speculations were already rife that this could be his last ever game at Old Trafford. It certainly looked like it, as Rooney was desperate to get on the score sheet and tried shooting from the most unlikely distances, but most of his shots were blocked by the Palace defenders. And when Mourinho gave him a good opportunity to receive a send-off from the fans by substituting him in the final minutes, it was all but confirmed that this was the last time the legend was gracing the holy pitch. It’s being circulated that he’ll address his future after the Ajax Finale, and we hope that he chooses what he feels is the best for him.
Palace Fail to Take Advantage
Crystal Palace could’ve ended their season in the 11th position, but failed to do so and finished 14th. Also, they could’ve netted almost £4m extra with a win, and Allardyce’s men would be frustrated having failed to beat United’s youngest ever team. The team has been on a roll, having defeated Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in recent weeks, but United were too good for them today. The upcoming window is very crucial for the side, who need to strengthen their squad and try to squeeze into the top 10 next season.
Joshua Harrop- Future Star?
Josh Harrop scored a sublime debut goal in front of the United faithful, and the way he took his goal was pretty good as well. He cut inside to the right, skilfully beating Ward and unleashed a bullet strike past Hennessey. He was brilliant on both the wings, and the way he dribbled past opponents confidently showed that he’s not just another start-stop kind of young prospect. He’s already 21, and it now looks likely that he could establish himself as a first teamer in the next couple of seasons.
All Eyes on the Final Now
United now have very little time to prepare for the Europa League Final against Ajax a mere three days later, and that was evident from Mourinho’s bizarre post-match conference, which lasted only 12 seconds. He’ll be very busy firing up his team ahead of a game that could make or break their season, and United cannot afford to lose at any cost. Ibrahimovic would also be travelling to watch his team play, and maybe he could boost his side mentally ahead of the fixture. This win over Palace would be a huge psychological boost for Mourinho’s men, and it’s now up to them to win the only major honour that’s missing from United’s trophy cabinet- the Europa League.