Man United were beaten 1-0 by Crystal Palace in the final Premier League game of the season. Despite losing on Sunday, the Red Devils managed to secure Europa League qualification for next season, thanks to Brighton. The Seagulls defeated West Ham and secured a top-half finish for themselves. Erik ten Hag, the new Manchester United manager, was in attendance at Selhurst Park.
Wilfried Zaha fired the hosts ahead with the only goal of the match as Ralf Rangnick’s last game in charge ended in defeat. Man United struggled to impress their new manager with a tepid performance, while Crystal Palace were dangerous during the counters.
Edinson Cavani had a close effort in the first half when Vicente Guaita’s clearance rebounced off Bruno Fernandes and fell to the Uruguayan striker. United improved slightly in the second half, with chances falling to teenage sensation Hannibal Mejbri and Bruno Fernandes to equalise for the Red Devils but the goal never came. Let us look at three crucial lessons learnt from the Crystal Palace vs Man United game:
1. Bruno Fernandes Had a Season to Forget
Manchester United’s talisman Bruno Fernandes had a terrible year. He won United’s Player of the Year Award last season with 45 goal contributions in 58 appearances across all competitions. He even signed a new contract last month, which will keep him at Old Trafford till 2026.
Unfortunately, the bitter truth is the Man United midfield maestro has given dreadful performances this season, offering very little in attack in big games He seems to be frustrated and involves himself in unnecessary arguments with opposition players. He has affected only 23 goal contributions so far this term and the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo might have pushed back his confidence.
According to SofaScore, the Portuguese midfielder lost the ball 29 times against Palace, committed two fouls, and won only 33% of his duels combined. And to top it off, he made the error leading to Wilfried Zaha’s goal. Bruno has been dispossessed multiple times this season from which the opposition has gone on to score a goal. He has lost the ball in the buildup by attempting an audacious pass.
With Ten Hag watching the game, Bruno Fernandes will certainly feel his place in starting eleven is in doubt at the moment. Fernandes certainly demonstrates good traits of leadership and is passionate about the team. Since the form is temporary, we hope to see his classy performances take centre stage at Old Trafford next season.
2. Manchester United Secure Europa League Despite Worst Season
The Europa League final loss last season against Villarreal shattered the confidence of the whole squad in general. Harry Maguire seems to have lost control of the dressing room and his captaincy is being criticised.
A season to forget for Manchester United:
▪️ Their worst points tally since the Premier League began in 1992 (58)
▪️ 0 goal difference
▪️ Most goals they've conceded in a Premier League season (57)
▪️ Liverpool and City did the double on them
▪️ Dropped into Europa League
— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 23, 2022
The 2021-22 campaign is officially United’s worst of the Premier League era. The Red Devils have conceded 57 goals after 38 games. This season will also be a black mark for United’s lowest points tally with only 58 points to its name in the final standings. Despite going through all the obstacles this season, United have at least secured European football for next year for Erik Ten Hag.
3. Manchester United Midfield And Defensive Woes Get Exposed Again
The United board decided against signing a defensive midfielder in January despite knowing the fact that Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba would certainly leave the club at the end of this season. On far too many occasions, Man United stood exposed in the midfield area against Crystal Palace, even with the presence of McTominay and Fred. This helped the opposition’s attacking midfielders to play defence-splitting passes during counter-attacks for the strikers to capitalize upon.
The likes of Declan Rice, Ruben Neves, Amadou Haidara, Boubacar Kamara, Kalvin Philips, Aurelien Tchouameni and Frenkie de Jong have all been linked with United. Without Champions League football next season, it will be difficult to buy most of the shortlisted players.
Frenkie De Jong rejected a move to Old Trafford while Boubacar Kamara has completed a move to Aston Villa on a free transfer. Declan Rice has a huge price tag on him which will make it an extremely difficult transfer for United to pull off, especially when they have other areas to address too. Hence, they will have to look at a shrewd signing like Kalvin Philips, Ruben Neves or Amadou Haidara. United certainly need to find a physical defensive midfielder with the ability to carry out high energy pressing in big games.
The United defence needs a complete revamp with the likes of Victor Lindelof and Maguire not up to the standard this season. Against big teams like Liverpool and City, they have got exposed easily with wavered back passes. It is very clear that United need ball-playing central defenders and maybe even a sweeper-keeper to suit Ten Hag’s style.
Raphael Varane will definitely need a new centre-back partner as all the current pairings have leaked several goals. United will have to look at summer signings like Jurrien Timber, Pau Torres or Jules Kounde to partner with Raphael Varane. Another position of concern is right-back, with Aaron Wan Bissaka not in Erik Ten Hag’s plans and alternative options in Europe like Nordi Mukiele being considered.
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This ended a disastrous season for United who recorded their lowest points tally and finished on zero goal difference. Crystal Palace secured their first home win over Man United since 1991 to finish 12th in Patrick Vieira’s first season at Selhurst Park.
Manchester United have already started preparations for next season with Steve McClaren and Mitchell Van Der Gaag appointed as assistants to Ten Hag. The incoming manager will have a decisive say on all transfer and recruitment matters, furthered by changes to the club’s scouting department.
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