Many unhappy Manchester United fans stayed away from Old Trafford as my favorite team closed the gap on top-four rivals Arsenal and Manchester City on Wednesday night. Despite the many fans who cowardly stayed away, for me, it was a routine 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Wednesday’s win over Palace provided a timely morale booster for the players (and yours truly) ahead of Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium.
The victory – secured via Crystal Palace’s Damien Delaney own goal and United’s Matteo Darmian 20 yard volley leaves the Red Devils with a point behind Arsenal in 4th position and two points behind City in 3rd position on the Barclays Premier League table.
Photo: United’s Matteo Darmian (jersey no. 36) fires the ball into Palace’s net for a second goal – with a 20 yard volley, to secure total victory for United on Wednesday April 20, 2016 at Old Trafford | Pic by Reuters/Phil Noble
Louis van Gaal made three changes to his starting XI from the preceding win over Aston Villa by recalling Matteo Darmian, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial in a 4-3-3 formation, with Wayne Rooney playing in midfield alongside Morgan Schneiderlin and Juan Mata.
Photo: Damien Delaney of Crystal Palace (2nd right) scores own goal – for United’s first goal. Three of the six own goals for Crystal Palace since returning to the Premier League in 2013 have been scored by Damien Delaney.
Wayne Rooney the captain was deployed in a deeper role behind in-form teen sensation Marcus Rashford and it was the 18-year-old’s back-heeled pass to Darmian that led to United breaking the deadlock on four minutes, when the Italian’s left-wing cross was accidentally diverted into the net by Eagles defender Delaney.
Many Manchester United fans stayed away
Many United fans stayed away from the Theater of Dreams fearing a United loss. The attendance at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, which may have included season-ticket holders not present, was given as 75,277, but there looked to be far fewer inside the ground. Despite United’s victory, the atmosphere was flat.
Photo: Empty seats at Old Trafford during Manchester United’s game with Crystal Palace on Wednesday April 20, 2016 at Old Trafford.
With United’s title challenge over and some fans disillusioned (I think, wrongly) with manager Louis Van Gaal, thousands of supporters chose to give this match a miss.
Asked afterwards about the empty seats, Van Gaal said he didn’t see “a lot” before adding “you have seen it because you want to see it.”
That was the smartest answer I have ever heard in a long time for an irrelevant question. If some cowardly United fans chose to stay away instead of staying put and cheering their favorite team, then they might as well have decamped to other football clubs and leave us loyal fans and supporters to sink or swim with Manchester United.
Those “United fans” are fair-weather fans and I wouldn’t loose any sleep over Lilliputians.
STATS AT HALF-TIME
Possession: United 62% Crystal Palace 38%
Shots at goal: United 7 Crystal Palace 2
Shots at target: United 6 Crystal Palace 0
Corners: United 3 Crystal Palace 2
STATS AT FULL-TIME
Possession: United 66% Crystal Palace 34%
Shots at goal: United 16 Crystal Palace 5
Shots on target: United 10 Crystal Palace 0
Corners: United 10 Crystal Palace 2
United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Lingard (Herrera 73′), Schneiderlin, Mata, Rooney (Fellaini 78′), Rashford (Memphis 64′), Martial.
Subs not used: Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Rojo, Young.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Kelly, Mariappa, Delaney, Souare, Jedinak, Cabaye (McArthur 66′), Lee (Mutch 60′), Zaha, Sako, Adebayor (Wickham 75′).
Subs not used: Dreher, McArthur, Puncheon, Campbell.
Booked: Kelly, Souare
“I was very happy with the performance and I think it was a four or five to zero game. We should have finished it much earlier and scored much more goals. We are still in the race [for the top four].” – Louis van Gaal.
“I think we’ve done exactly what we’ve needed to do, and it’s about having City and Arsenal looking over their shoulder, and we’ve put a bit more pressure on.” – Chris Smalling.
VAN GAAL’S VERDICT ON PALACE VICTORY
PLEASED WITH THE PERFORMANCE
“Yes I was very happy with the performance and I think it was a four or five to zero game. We should have finished it much earlier and scored much more goals. We created a lot of chances and we did not give any chances away – one, maybe, in the first half for Adebayor.”
EARLY GOAL SETTLED EVERYBODY
“Yes it helps of course and also such a goal [for the second]. I was very happy for Matteo [Darmian], two times he was involved in the goals and I have seen it already in the training session. He was the top scorer of the day on Monday and he did it again in the match. He shot with his left and right foot, and now he shot for his goal with his left foot.”
PRESSURE ON TOP-FOUR RIVALS
“Of course we are in the race and we are two points behind City and Arsenal [who are one point ahead of United] have to play tomorrow [Thursday] against West Bromwich Albion. It is not an easy opponent because they will defend, probably, and it is always difficult. You have seen Arsenal against Crystal Palace – it is always difficult.”
SEMI-FINAL SELECTION HEADACHE?
“Selection is not so difficult because you are following what you see, what your philosophy is, what the game plan is. Now you have to convince the players why you select that way. That is much more important.”
EXCITED FOR WEMBLEY
“Of course the semi-final is not nothing. I came to England to win titles and now are very close. But first we have to beat Everton and that is not so easy. Also when they have lost to Liverpool 4-0, with 10 men it is difficult against Liverpool I think [Ramiero Funes Mori was sent off].”
Boy! Am I thrilled? Sure banker!!!
Up Man U!