Man Utd reach new nadir as Casemiro, Hojlund and Ten Hag humiliated by Crystal Palace

Will Ford
Casemiro Man Utd
Casemiro was terrible as Man Utd were humiliated by Crystal Palace.

Manchester United spent an entire game of football either preparing to give the ball away or failing to defend once they had. That was the worst of the worst.

Wherever and whenever Crystal Palace fancied attacking they were allowed to by a team lacking fight, skill, energy and any cohesion whatsoever. All the home side needed was a little bit of quality in attack, which hasn’t been hard to come by under Oliver Glasner, and was duly provided by Michael Olise, Jean Philippe Mateta and Eberechi Eze, to condemn Manchester United to yet another Premier League defeat and leave us wondering whether there are any redeemable features in a Red Devils team without Bruno Fernandes.

Olise is a brilliant footballer, who has drawn interest from the Premier League elite (and United) this season for good reason. And one would think that a goal involving him picking the ball up on the halfway line would require him to be at that brilliant best. But he will have scored more difficult tap-ins.

Christian Eriksen’s lame attempt to win the ball from Olise was commendable in comparison to Casemiro’s. Sure, Olise displayed a nifty bit of footwork before he wandered, unchallenged, towards the United goal and scuffed his shot past Andre Onana, but the Frenchman’s quick feet didn’t so much beat the Brazilian but happen in proximity to him, as Casemiro inexplicably slid in to try to win the ball just inside his own half when inaction would likely have been enough to prevent that opening goal.

What is ordinarily a huge hole in Manchester United’s midfield became a chasm in that instance, and it’s impossible to watch Erik ten Hag’s side without marvelling at the space afforded to the opposition. While Adam Wharton always seemed to be in the right place at the right time for Crystal Palace, none of the United players ever seem to be where they’re needed, with time and space granted to the opposition in midfield, on the wings and in behind.

“Firefighter” Kobbie Mainoo was running around with a bucket full of holes, at times succeeding but often failing to do the defensive work of all three midfielders as his two centre-backs hoofed the ball over his head to a striker whose impact remains laughably insignificant.

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As Mateta held the ball up beautifully for Crystal Palace, overpowering the United defenders to bring his teammates into the game, Rasmus Hojlund – once again – did nothing of note.

Mateta’s goal featured some very flat-footed defending from Jonny Evans after United gave the ball away in midfield, but it served to highlight the inadequacy of the Red Devils’ centre-forward as much as their widely reported defensive deficiencies. Why can’t Hojlund drive at a defender, beat them and smash the ball past a goalkeeper?

There’s no doubt Hojlund would have scored more than his eight Premier League goals – seven of which came in a glut at the turn of the year – if he was playing in a team featuring tactics above and beyond booting the ball somewhere near him. But even when he did receive balls into his feet, Hojlund’s touch invariably let him and his team down. And given that was the only means of United getting up the pitch and creating anything, United didn’t get up the pitch or create anything.

We know that Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho are talented young footballers, but in Fernandes’ absence we didn’t see any of the qualities they’ve shown in even the worst United performances this season. Without Fernandes, United are nothing. They spent the whole of this game either preparing to give the ball away or failing to defend once they had.

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Diogo Dalot was beaten to a ball at the back post by Joachim Andersen, who set up Tyrick Mitchell for a tap-in, and then Casemiro once again displayed what looks like a genuine desire to lose football matches, looking right at Daniel Munoz before allowing himself to be tackled by the Palace wing-back ahead of Olise scoring what will likely go down as a howitzer, though the ball actually flew into the net nowhere near the corner as Onana did his I’m-going-to-dive-but-not-actually-move bit.

There is no excuse for a performance like this. Ten Hag – as he has done all season – will blame injuries, and Evans and Casemiro being their 14th centre-back pairing is indeed worthy of comment, but how can he explain the complete lack of an attacking plan? What do they do in training? Are there tactics beyond getting the ball to Fernandes? Because without him we can add a complete lack of attacking threat to Manchester United being entirely rubbish at defending.

This is the first time in history that United have lost 13 games in a Premier League season and they’ve conceded more goals (81) than in any season since 1976/77. That was awful, they are awful, Ten Hag is a dead man walking and most of those players should follow him out of the Old Trafford exit this summer.

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