The Red Devils had ended the 2019-20 season on a high, going on a 14-game unbeaten run in the league to end the campaign in third place. However, despite making a return to the Champions League, there are quite a few areas of concern regarding the team.
For starters, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s indulgence in the same starting-eleven for a majority of the last few games betray a lack of trust in his squad. The three semi-final defeats, on the other hand, hints at a lack of maturity in the team.
It is clear that the squad needs reinforcements, but while Manchester United fans were eager to see new faces in the team before the start of the season, they were utterly disappointed by the relative inactivity of their beloved club in the transfer market.
Donny Van De Beek’s arrival did spawn a brief air of optimism, but those were doused by the failure of Manchester United to land any new player before the first game of the season.
As such, the home game against the Eagles was an opportunity for Solskjaer to not only put his best foot forward but also improve the mood of the fans. The Norwegian, aware of the threat of Roy Hodgson's side after being stung in the dying minutes of the same encounter last season, named his first-eleven accordingly.
Manchester United Starting XI:
David De Gea; Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw; Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes; Daniel James, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford.
Unfortunately, the home side were too slow off the blocks, and it was Palace who took the lead in the seventh minute through Andros Townsend.
The home side played catch up for the rest of the half as the game went into the break with Palace leading 1-0. Solskjaer brought on Mason Greenwood in place of James, hoping for a response, but it was the away side who went 2-0 up in the 74th minute through Wilfried Zaha after Lindelof conceded a penalty.
Donny van de Beek, coming off the bench for Pogba, pulled one back for Manchester United to raise hopes of a comeback. But Palace put the game to bed with Zaha’s second goal of the night in the 85th minute, and the game ended 3-1 in favour of the away side.
With Manchester United failing to win their first league game of the season for the first time in seven years, Solskjaer will be agitated with the performances of five players in particular as they were very poor on the night.
#5 Timothy Fosu-Mensah
When Solskjaer opted for Timothy Fosu-Mensah ahead of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, he perhaps had match fitness in mind. However, the Dutchman lacks the robustness of the Englishman, a fact that was as clear as daylight as the game progressed.
Fosu-Mensah was neither fruitful in the final-third, nor did his defending warrant much confidence. The Dutchman was caught out of position on quite a few occasions and had to rely on his teammates to bail him out.
His passing accuracy also left a lot to be desired, while the few times that he did get in good positions in the final-third in the first half, his final ball was not up to the mark. However, he did improve after the break and might have even picked up an assist had Greenwood been a little more clinical.
Fosu-Mensah gave the ball away cheaply and generally looked short of ideas on the pitch. That led to a one-dimensional attack from Manchester United. After such a performance, the Dutchman might find chances harder to come by this season.
#4 Daniel James
Solskjaer opted for the pace of Daniel James for the first game of the season in another case where match fitness dictated the manager’s decision more than any other. And it was easy to see why the Welshman is no longer an automatic starter for the Red Devils.
James started on the right, a position that has been Manchester United’s bane for quite a few years now, but offered very little for the entire first half.
The Welshman’s work ethics are commendable, but that alone does not win games. James offered very little in attack and was not comfortable in the forward-right position. His lack of penetration in the final-third hurt Manchester United's chances on the night.
By the end of the first half, James cut a sorry figure and had to be hauled off by Solskjaer at the break. If the Old Trafford hierarchy requires any reason why a certain Jadon Sancho is pivotal to Manchester United’s upturn in fortunes, they only have to have a look at the Welshman's performance against Crystal Palace.