Four Things We Learned: Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace

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By Nathan Thomas.

1. Young impresses, despite flaws

He is fast becoming number one on most fans ‘he is isn’t good enough for United’ list, however after been ‘welcomed’ to twitter with a barrage of moronic abuse, Ashley Young will have done a lot to silence any doubters, momentarily at least, after an excellent display against Crystal Palace. With United enjoying so much freedom on the left flank, both Young and Evra were worked well in tandem as they sought to break down the stubborn Eagles. Now don’t get me wrong, this was no flawless performance from the England international with a few glimpses of the indecisive Ashley Young which we have come to know and lo.. well, you know what I mean. His performance was also marred by his shameful tendencies to, shall we say, be somewhat light on his feet (I once saw him described as a ‘Thespian ****house’, whichever works for you I suppose). Still, his performance was far more direct and potent than the one we saw at Anfield two weeks ago. Young continued to be a thorn in Palace’s side for the entire afternoon, constantly probing and providing the goods delivery wise. Only a little lax movement from the likes of Rooney and van Persie prevented him from adding further assists to his name after being brought down (this time he actually was brought down – just about) on the stroke of half-time which earned United a penalty.

2. The Future’s Bright

Young was replaced, on 67 minutes, by youngster Adnan Januzaj, whose exciting potential earned him a rapturous welcome as he made his Premier League debut. Taking over from where Young had left off, Januzaj looked full of confidence and with bags of energy ran the Palace defence ragged, as the effects of being a man down began to catch up with them. It is encouraging to see that Moyes is so keen to blood United’s young charges; would Januzaj have featured today had Mourinho been in charge? Who knows? Although this is a trait that surely attracted United to Moyes in the first place and long may it continue. The young Belgian forward probably did enough to overshadow his fellow debutant and countryman Marouane Fellaini, who put in a decent cameo appearance and showed glimpses at the physical qualities he will being to United’s midfield. A promising day indeed.

3. Same old story

Despite the aforementioned appraisals, it wasn’t all hunky dory at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon. Two familiar faces on ‘Downright frustrating/Bloody Useless’ list are Antonio Valencia and Anderson, and true to form, they lived up to that billing with gusto. We’ve seen it all before with Anderson – brilliant/injured/rubbish/repeat – can accurately sum up his United career. In truth, I was somewhat surprised that he wasn’t sold during the summer, I read in United We Stand that physios at the club believe he has now finally ‘got over’ his persistent knee trouble, which has possibly bought him once last bite at the cherry. I do hope he proves me wrong, however watching a performance on Saturday which mixed raking fifty yard passes with a seeming inability to execute basic footballing tasks, infuriated the crowd and few were sad to see him depart for new-boy Fellaini on the hour mark Valencia is a different case entirely. We know the quality he has within him, having seen him tear left backs up and down the country to shreds between 2011 and mid 2012. He was deservedly crowned United’s fans player and player’s player of the year in 2012 and having overcome a horrendous leg-injury it appeared that Valencia was well and truly on the up. Subsequently, his fall from grace has been baffling, where once he was a swashbuckling, powerhouse of a winger, he is now a shadow of his former self. Unwilling to take players on, erratic crossing and poor movement have replaced those aforementioned sought after traits in a wide player. Some say he has been ‘found out’ with his simple, albeit once very effective, approach being harnessed by defenders. However I feel it is more than that, his change in fortunes has been so dramatic that it surely cannot be put down to improved tactics of the opposition. The thing with Valencia was that there wasn’t a great deal defenders could do with him when he was on peak form. If he’s faster, bigger and stronger than you, which he invariably was, what can you do? The question now is what is Valencia going to do to recapture that form? Yes, we are only four games into the new season, but this a long-running issue. With Nani back to fitness, Young and Januzaj both putting in excellent shifts today, and the exciting Zaha to add to that, I’m surprised Valencia is getting a look in. It poses a difficult question for manager David Moyes, it would appear that Valencia will only be able to reinvent himself if he is given the game time. But how can Moyes possibly grant him that when there are two or three others who are performing far better than he? Watch this space.

4. Still no Kagawa

Before anyone thinks I’m going to try my hand at sensationalist reporting here – ‘Kagawa unhappy’ ‘Left out again’ blah blah – don’t worry, I’m not. I think most people were aware that our Japanese magician missed today’s game through illness, however his absence only went to highlight how needed his ability is in the United team. Wayne Rooney, who operated behind Robin van Persie, played extremely well, capping his performance with a fine goal from a free kick. As good as Rooney is, and I do believe he will put his uncertain summer behind him and thrive again this season, Kagawa has more of an eye for a pass than Rooney does. United lacked the quality of the final pass against Palace, particularly in the tight intricate positions around the edge of the area. Rooney’s pass to van Persie in the first half was, admittedly stupendous, however United’s number ten appears to provide cutting passes from deeper positions, where he has longer to probe and pick his man. When hovering on the edge of the box, he appeared to lack a bit of the instinctiveness that Kagawa has. Perhaps, this was in part down to lack of sharpness on Rooney’s part, I think most would agree that despite starting the season well, is nowhere near top gear. Still, I for one hope Moyes gives Kagawa his chance, I’d like to see him operate behind Rooney. I still feel Rooney is at his most effective when playing as a ‘number 9’ and although I wouldn’t normally like to see him there instead of van Persie, a bit of experimentation wouldn’t do anybody any harm.

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