Manchester United have continued their historic start to the season with another three points, courtesy of Crystal Palace. Here are three takeaways.
Manchester United once again cruised to a comfortable Premier League win on Saturday, this time taking three points against Crystal Palace. Other than a very brief period in the first half, when they were already up 1-0, United were in total control of the match.
This continues a fantastic start to the season for the Red Devils, and a horrible one for Crystal Palace. Here are three lessons.
The Fellaini-Matic partnership is good for both players
You’d think pairing two natural defensive midfielders would be a bit too conservative. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini. The two look to be on the same page, and both are reaping benefits from this partnership.
Being paired alongside Matic has done Fellaini a world of good. He now knows he can make his trademark raiding runs forward into the box without the consequence of being caught out by a counter-attack. This has seen Fellaini be more involved in the attack this season, and it has paid off.
Fellaini, while never flashy, has been an important role player in holding possession, scoring goals from set pieces and crosses and even does a good job of pressuring the opposition’s back line. With the thought of having arguably one of the best true defensive midfielders in the league in Matic behind him, he’s looked like a new man this season.
Fellaini isn’t the only one benefiting from this partnership, as Matic looks to be enjoying it as well. While he doesn’t go forward as frequently as Fellaini, Matic can be a bit more aggressive in stepping into passing lanes to win the ball as he realizes he has Fellaini there to back him up.
This has been another key in a successful attack for United. Matic feeling comfortable stepping forward at times to win the ball allows him to play the long balls forward and incisive through balls to start the counter-attack, both of which he does quite effectively.
While it would be surprising to see this partnership continue when Paul Pogba returns from injury, United fans should enjoy it for what it is while it’s still here.
Rashford’s enhanced role has paid off, big time
It goes without saying that Marcus Rashford has been fantastic this season. Coming off a bit of a sophomore slump last year, he looks hungry to prove himself to manager Jose Mourinho, and it has paid off big time for the Red Devils.
Two things can be directly attributed to his stellar play. The first is the arrival of a pure point man in Romelu Lukaku. Having a big, strong forward up top to hold up play and bag goals has taken the pressure off Rashford to produce consistently, and he’s thrived because of it.
The second is that Rashford has seemingly found his position out on the wing. It was argued over the last year leading up to this season whether Rashford would continue to try and push for a position in the side as a striker or if he would play on the wing. It seems the wing is the best spot for him, especially with Lukaku to knock balls into.
His stellar play, speed and creativity have been the bane of every full-back Rashford comes up against. How he created the first goal, just two and a half minutes in, against Palace was a prime example of how he’s thriving on the wing.
Without Zaha and Benteke, Palace look dead in the water
It’s still early days in the season, so there’s still hope for Palace yet. But when your team lacks any sort of attacking sense without two players, you’re in for a tough season ahead.
Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke are undoubtedly the two best attacking options Palace have, and without them they lack any sort of attacking options. They should have addressed their lack of attacking depth in the summer. Then again, they shouldn’t have hired a manager they were willing to fire after 77 days either, so not signing any new forwards wasn’t their worst decision of the offseason.
But if they don’t address their lack of attacking options in the January transfer window, or if no one else can step up, they’re going to be in for a long season fighting relegation, a place they arguably shouldn’t be in.