It was the third consecutive game in which United have failed to score and they could consider themselves lucky not to have lost the game, given Palace tested David De Gea in more than one occasion.
Here’s five talking points from Saturday
1) Dull, dull, dull
Up until yesterday, United had only gone three consecutive games without scoring twice in their entire history, in 1921 and 2005 and they had not failed to score in back-to-back Premier League games since December 2013.
Statistics and numbers can only go so far in explaining United’s current ordeal but they paint a very gloomy picture. Louis Van Gaal’s side have scored less than any of the other teams currently in the top six and have scored 11 goals less than City, a ratio of a goal per game.
It’s not that United are unlucky in front of goal either, they simply do not create any chances at all. Against Palace, they mustered the grand total of one shot of goal and even that came from a set piece, simply not good enough.
2) Wayne Rooney is undroppable
Unless he finds himself on crutches, Wayne Rooney is not going to be left out by Louis Van Gaal, no matter how abysmally out of form he might be. The United captain was a passenger yet again on Saturday, looking a shadow of the player he once was and displaying all the worrying signs of decline that have surfaced more or less in every game he’s played so far this season.
Admittedly, Rooney’s ordeal isn’t helped by United’s staunch determination to not commit men forward and the 30-year-old was just as mediocre as the majority of his teammates at Selhurst Park. However, when United did manage to carve out a chance, Rooney latched onto Anthony Martial’s through ball with the pace of a man wearing concrete boots and running through glue.
Van Gaal keeps selecting him for reasons best known only to himself.
3) Martial must play through the middle
Not only does Van Gaal’s stubborn refusal to drop Rooney limit United’s already slim chances up-front, it also hinders the development of Anthony Martial, whose threat is clearly being stifled by Van Gaal’s decision to deploy the Frenchman out wide.
Martial was impressive against Liverpool and Southampton when he was given the opportunity of playing in the traditional number 9 role but the role is now occupied by Rooney, a configuration that has only paid dividends against Everton so far.
Martial has often been deployed in a similar role for France, although that’s a luxury Didier Deschamps can afford as he can rely on Karim Benzema up-front.
4) Are the fans losing patience?
Even during David Moyes’ catastrophic season, the core of United support stood by the manager until his situation became untenable and he was relieved of his duties.
Louis Van Gaal’s brand of football has won few admirers since he’s arrived at Old Trafford and while disappointment over his approach has been simmering for a few months, Saturday was arguably the first time United fans made their feelings clear.
“We are Man United, we used to attack”, roared the away end as United toiled through a frankly horrible 90 minutes in South London, while the usual “Attack, attack, attack” chant also made an appearance.
However, while in seasons gone by it was a roaring encouragement, yesterday it sounded more like a desperate, frustrated demand. Van Gaal has often praised the supporters but his philosophy is alienating them more than the lack of results.
5) United can turn things around
October was billed as a crucial month for United and they’ve not fared well. Having begun the month at the top of the table, United ended October four points behind City and Arsenal, after winning just one of the six games they’ve played and scoring a meagre four goals, three of which came in the same game.
Beginning with Tuesday’s home game against CSKA Moscow, United have a rather benign set of fixtures ahead of them, hosting West Brom next week before travelling to Watford and Leicester with a home fixtures against PSV sandwiched in between.
If, and on current form it is an almighty big if, United can produce the sort of display that secured them a 3-0 win at Goodison Park, then they have every chance of picking up maximum points from the fixtures.
However, if they continue to adopt this fear-driven approach, there could be further trouble ahead.
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