Manchester United 4-0 Crystal Palace: Fellaini double helps United to easy victory

United faced a poor Palace side at home; they have failed to score all season. Even as early as the seventh game of the season, this was a must-win game for the Reds. Thankfully they strolled to an easy victory, winning 4-0 without really exerting themselves.

After going with three at the back in the previous game, Mourinho reverted to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. De Gea was behind a back four of Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young. Jones was a surprising choice; he had been ruled out of the game in Mourinho’s pre-match conference. Matic and Fellaini resumed their partnership in the middle of the field. The preferred three of Mata, Mkhitaryan and Rashford played behind superstar striker Lukaku. Palace lined up in a sort of 4-6-0 due to their lack of strikers, very much set up for the counter-attack.

Mata extinguished any chance of a nervous start within two minutes. Rashford held Joel Ward off on the left-hand side, before channelling Cruyff and turning the defender inside out. Once he got closer to the byline, he drilled the ball across the box where the Spaniard curled it home from the penalty spot.

United controlled the majority of the half, patiently building attacks in front of Palace’s deep defensive line. The front four roamed around the field, finding space and combining to suddenly quicken up the attack. However, they struggled to create clear chances, often failing to make the final pass or get a shot on goal.

Half an hour in, Palace were starting to step out a bit more, making a few forays into the United half. Their best chance was still a meek effort, Sako getting in behind Valencia but shooting too early and too close to De Gea.

Just as the crowd was starting to murmur in fear, United got their second, effectively winning the game. After some tidy build-up play, Matic found Young in the left-hand channel. The full-back cut inside on his right and whipped in a beautiful ball to the back post. It swung past everyone except Fellaini, who poked home from a yard at the back post before sprinting off to celebrate.

United started to feel more comfortable now and rounded out the first half with lots of quick chances. Smalling went close with a header at the back post from a corner. After Lukaku had looped a header across the box, Rashford blasted a shot at the near post that Hennessey blocked clear. From that corner, the chance broke down only for Mata to send in a high cross to the back post, finding Mkhitaryan. The Armenian adjusted his body to connect with a volley that was just too high and wide.

The Reds began the second half quickly, Rashford had a blocked chance before Fellaini got the third goal. Young was brought down just outside the right-hand side of the Palace area after an attempted nutmeg. Rashford took the free kick, smashing an arced cross to the back post. Delaney was holding Fellaini down, but the Belgian managed to guide the ball home with his head from two yards out. The midfielder had another good game beyond just his goal scoring. His passing was tight, he defended well and even unleashed a few flicks and tricks for the fan’s entertainment. However, he is not Paul Pogba and never will be; he is only a stop-gap option.

The game then started to get a bit more hectic as Palace desperately tried to get their first goal of the season. There was a flurry of half chances from both sides as the game began to stretch slightly. After a few minutes, United settled deeper in their own half, happy to play on the counter and shut the game down.

Sako then had a chance for Palace when Ward found him in the box, only for him to clip it over the bar. United then went close after playing some beautiful football from front to back. Playing the ball out after a Palace half chance, Matic eventually found Lingard who attempted to turn towards goal. He was brought down, but Lukaku seized on the loose ball, carrying it across the Palace penalty box. For a split second, his placed finish looked like it had gone in. Unfortunately, it was marginally wide.

Palace were now trying to pin United back in their box but were too inept to really apply pressure. Valencia, Young and Nemanja Vidic Phil Jones were outstanding again and really nullified the Eagles attacks. The nearest Palace got was a Townsend free kick from 30 yards that missed everyone, including the United goal. Palace had that air of a team destined to go down. Whatever they tried in attack was ultimately fruitless, passes didn’t come off and first touches were poor.

By this time, Martial had come on for Rashford. The crowd gets up when the youngster is on and his opening trick was to nutmeg Townsend so perfectly that the victim had his head in his hands. Martial now looks a lot more like the player signed by Van Gaal and not the subdued, ‘unhappy’ player of last season. With ten minutes to go, he had his first chance, played in by Herrera after a quick counter. Hennessey charged down his shot, but he’d already shown Palace what was to come.

With five minutes to go, United had their now customary fourth goal. Lukaku nodded a long ball from the back to his left. Herrera carried the ball forward before holding it up as Martial made his run. The Basque threaded it through to him on the left side of the Palace box. The Frenchman played it across the box, Lingard missed his backheel only for Lukaku to stroll forward and tap it into the net. The Belgian had played well but spends large parts of the games uninvolved. But it doesn’t matter if he keeps scoring like he is.

All in all, United won this game without ever really getting out of second gear. They had a solid defence and never looked under any pressure. The midfield two controlled the space and Fellaini, in particular, was excellent. The front four (whoever the personnel) also seem to terrify whoever United face. There will be greater challenges ahead but it was lovely to watch a game when there was never any hint of danger. A good way to end things before the international break, especially as things are going to get much tougher when they return.