There were three more goals and yet another victory on Manchester United’s pre-season tour on Tuesday, with Erik Ten Hag’s side toppling Crystal Palace 3-1 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
How did United set up?
Tyrell Malacia made his first start in a red shirt ahead of Luke Shaw for the game against Palace, but fellow defender Raphael Varane once again missed out due to injury. It was later confirmed, however, that the Frenchman is training with the squad and will soon be back in action.
Ten Hag chose to give the starting players over an hour’s worth of action against Patrick Viera’s side as he looks to build his senior players up to their peak fitness.
Here are two sides, the first being from kick-off and the second being from 66 minutes onwards…
First half lineup:
Starting XI: David De Gea (GK), Diogo Dalot (RB), Harry Maguire (CB), Victor Lindelof (CB), Tyrell Malacia (LB), Scott McTominay (CM), Fred (CM), Bruno Fernandes (CAM), Jadon Sancho (RW), Marcus Rashford (LW), Anthony Martial (ST).
Subs: Tom Heaton, Matej Kovar, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Ethan Laird, Will Fish, Eric Bally, Alex Telles, Luke Shaw, Charlie Savage, Donny van de Beek, Zidane Iqbal, Hannibal Mejbri, Tahith Chong, Facundo Pellistri, Amad Diallo, Alejandro Garnacho .
66’ onwards lineup:
Starting XI: David de Gea (GK), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (RB), Will Fish (CB), Alex Telles (CB), Tyrell Malacia (LB), Charlie Savage (CM), Zidane Iqbal (CM), Donny van de Beek (CAM), Amad Diallo (RW), Anthony Elanga (LW), Hannibal Mejbri (ST).
Subs: Tom Heaton, Matej Kovar, Ethan Laird, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw, Tahith Chong, Facundo Pellistri, Alejandro Garnacho.
How it went down
The first bit of action came just after ten minutes when Fred played a delightful reverse ball for Martial, one that completely split the Palace defence open, but Martial failed to convert following a heroic save from Jack Butland; sadly for the goalkeeper, he was injured in saving the shot and the former England international was replaced early on by Remi Matthews.
The Red Devils took the lead in the 18th minute through a clinical Martial effort. The ball was switched from one full-back to another from Malacia to Dalot, with the latter controlling the ball well, cutting inside and playing a cross to Martial, who chested it down and fired it home from close range. It is now three goals in three games for the Frenchman, who looks revitalised on tour so far.
Young winger Jesurun Rak-Sakyi managed to register a shot just before the half-hour mark that was goal bound, but Maguire blocked effectively in what was an important contribution from the skipper.
The Englishman was involved again before the half ended, this time at the other end of the pitch. In the aftermath of a set piece, Martial found Maguire in space on the edge of the area, but the Yorkshireman’s effort was just too high and wide. It was one of many opportunities that the Reds had to double their lead.
McTominay made way for van de Beek after the interval, much to the delight of many fans who have wanted to see the Dutchman operate as a more box-to-box midfielder (like Fred) as opposed to an attacking one (like Fernandes).
It only took the former Ajax man three minutes to contribute, too, when he assisted Rashford to double the lead in the 48th minute. It was a sublime team goal by United. It started with Sancho on the edge of the area who threaded Martial in behind. Realising the onrushing goalkeeper prevented him from getting the shot away, Martial poked it to van de Beek who was level with him before it was played across the face of goal to Rashford, who simply could not miss to make it two goals on the tour so far for the Englishman.
Fernandes showed a moment of weakness when he clumsily lost possession on the halfway line not long afterwards, but the opposition counterattack was soon over after De Gea made a routine save.
United tripled their lead in the 59th minute when Martial played Sancho through on the breakaway with a superb first-time pass. Sancho carried the ball forward for what seemed like an age before sitting down Joel Ward and firing home beyond Matthews, a strike that truly reflected United’s dominance over a lethargic Palace team.
The Eagles did have the ball in the net in the 65th minute, but the strike was rightfully ruled out for offside thanks to Dalot stepping up.
Eight changes were made moments later, with De Gea, Malacia and van de Beek the only ones to retain their places.
Telles was denied from distance after Matthews parried his free-kick away for a corner before seventy minutes.
Perhaps it was a moment to forget for De Gea in the 74th minute when Viera’s men got one back. Ward fired a header hard and low from a Palace corner, but the Spanish shot-stopper could not make the save that would have been expected of him, and the 31-year-old was visibly frustrated as a clean sheet faded away.
In the final stages of the game, Palace had made a whole host of changes, the majority of which were young players, with many senior stars back in England getting ready to face Gillingham on the same day.
Young defender Fish unexpectedly saw red following a calamitous error. After failing to control the ball, the Englishman hacked down Victor Akinwale with a tackle most rugby fans would be proud of. It could not be disputed that he had to leave the pitch. It was sad to see his short cameo come to an end like that, but it does not matter in the grand scheme of things, of course.
With the goal conceded, the sending off and the lack of rhythm with the substitutes, it was an uncomfortable end to an otherwise good game.
Final score: Manchester United 3-1 Crystal Palace (Martial 17’, Rashford 48’, Sancho 59’, Fish 84’) (Ward 74’)
Man of the match
Anthony Martial is looking cold-blooded in pre-season so far as he made it three goals in three games in the 3-1 victory. He made a great run for Fred to pick him out just after ten minutes, but could not convert. The Frenchman made up for his miss with a clinical finish following Dalot’s cross, with the 26-year-old really running the show at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
His hold up play was strong and his link up play was even better with Sancho and Rashford, with the trio looking sharp in the new United away kit. Long may it continue.
Special mentions to Dalot, Malacia and Sancho who were all superb today.
The bigger picture
Similar to the wins over Liverpool and Melbourne Victory, the victory against Palace is nothing to get too carried away over. Although, fans can take encouragement from the style of play that is being implemented under Ten Hag. The Dutch manager is instilling a style of play that revolves around high ball possession, quick turnovers of play and as much chance creation as possible. Just three games into his era, Ten Hag’s style appears more exciting than anything seen at Manchester United for the best part of a decade.
Also, whilst the team performance is improving, so too are the performances of individuals. The likes of Martial and Sancho are relishing in a more possession-based system. Dalot covered an immense amount of distance in the win on Tuesday, with his game-by-game improvement visible. Fernandes has shown a more mature side to his game by simplifying his passing and retaining the ball more, as opposed to trying to play the ‘Hollywood pass’ every time he picks the ball up.
The younger players who came on around seventy minutes were average at best and never found much of a rhythm, but the entire game lost its rhythm by that point, in fairness.
There are many positives to take from the win and, whilst fans are not getting carried away, it is good to see all-round improvement at Manchester United at the moment.
Next up for Manchester United is Aston Villa at the Optus Stadium in Perth, with the game taking place on Saturday 23rd July at 10:45 (BST).