By Our Sports Correspondent
Manchester United 0-0 Crystal Palace: Jose Mourinho’s side fail to close gap on top four as well-drilled Eagles hold them to stalemate at Old Trafford
- Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Juan Mata were back in for United, while Wilfried Zaha returned to Palace XI
- Patrick van Aanholt missed huge chance and Cheikhou Kouyate had goal disallowed as Palace pressed early
- It was United’s turn to score just before the hour mark, but striker Romelu Lukaku was deemed to be offside
- Andros Townsend missed a one-on-one with David de Gea as the tight match headed into final 15 minutes
- The goalless draw earns Crystal Palace their first ever Premier League point away at Manchester United
Boos rang around Old Trafford as Manchester United stuttered to a goalless draw that made a mockery of Jose Mourinho’s aim to be inside the top four by New Year’s Day.
United struggled to create chances with Romelu Lukaku, now 11 games without a goal, and Jesse Lingard coming closest and Paul Pogba was hooked in the second half after a disappointing display.
At the other end, Palace – the lowest scorers in the Premier League bar Huddersfield – were denied by a brilliant double save from David De Gea and they, like United, had a goal disallowed for a close offside decision.
Team P GD Pts 1 Manchester City 13 35 35 2 Liverpool 13 21 33 3 Tottenham Hotspur 13 12 30 4 Chelsea 13 17 28 5 Arsenal 12 11 24 6 Everton 13 5 22 7 Manchester United 13 -1 21 8 Bournemouth 12 5 20 9 Watford 13 0 20 10 Leicester City 13 1 18 11 Wolverhampton Wanderers 12 -1 16 12 Brighton and Hove Albion 13 -5 15 13 West Ham United 13 -8 12 14 Newcastle United 12 -6 9 15 Crystal Palace 13 -9 9 16 Burnley 12 -13 9 17 Southampton 13 -14 8 18 Cardiff City 13 -15 8 19 Fulham 13 -19 8 20 Huddersfield Town 12 -16 7
Lukaku was back in Manchester United’s starting line-up following a ‘rest’ while Paul Pogba also returned after missing the derby defeat a fortnight ago.
Juan Mata was in for his 200th United appearance but club captain Antonio Valencia remained on the bench despite Luke Shaw being ruled out through suspension. Instead, Jose Mourinho picked Matteo Darmian at right-back –his first action since the opening day of the season – and shifted Ashley Young to the left.
Palace had failed to score in their previous five visits to Old Trafford but were able to include Wilfried Zaha against his former club. Zaha had returned early from international duty with Ivory Coast due to a knock.
Mourinho stated in his programme notes that United’s ambition was to finish the year in the top four – a tall order. But they began brightly enough with Jesse Lingard having a shot blocked and Anthony Martial denied by an alert Wayne Hennessey who came quickly from his goal.
Paul Pogba evades the challenges of Palace’s defence to whip a shot around James Tomkins, but it flies wide of the target
There was an early yellow card for Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic when he tripped an advancing Jesse Lingard
As has been the pattern this season, United then faded without the boost of an early goal and Palace created good chances of their own.
Zaha was given plenty of room inside the United box and berated himself for shooting wide. And after 27 minutes, he picked out Patrick van Aanholt unmarked following a devastating Palace counter.
Perhaps adrenaline got the better of the Dutchman because when the ball arrived he completely fluffed his kick with his ‘wrong’ right foot.
You could hear the frustration at Old Trafford with United threatenng only occasionally. Chris Smalling headed Mata’s free-kick wide and then Hennessey mad a good double save from Lingard and Martial.
Jose Mourinho was left to watch another below-par first-half performance from his Manchester United side at Old Trafford
Palace had a goal ruled on the stroke of half-time when Cheikh Kouyate was marginally offside when he headed in Milovojevic’s free-kick. Ironically, United then had their own effort disallowed at the start of the second half when Hennessey spilled Ashley Young’s shot and Lukaku prodded home having been offside for the original strike.
Sir Alex Ferguson, watching from the stands, couldn’t have been enjoying it and Mourinho threw on three subs – Marcus Rashford, Marouane Fellaini and Alexis Sanchez. Pogba was one of those to make way after a poor display.
Palace felt confident of snatching a win and de Gea needed to be at his elastic best to dive to his right and keep out a Kouyate shot. The Spaniard then scrambled to keep out van Aanholt’s rebound attempt.
Andros Townsend then evaded a feeble challenge by Lindelof but with de Gea in his sights he fired right-footed beyond the far post.
There was gradual increase in United pressure over the last 15 minutes. Lukaku, without a goal in 11 games, rose well with a header that Hennessey tipped around the post.
The tactic of putting plenty of six-footers into the box in the hope of scrambling a goal won’t have pleased the purists however, particularly with Manchester City scoring for fun once again at West Ham.
Van Aanholt fells Ashley Young, who was grimacing before he hit the floor during the goalless Premier League draw
Roy Hodgson, flanked by his assistant Ray Lewington, will certainly have been the happier of the two managers on Saturday
Zaha applauds Palace fans – while fending off boos from the United faithful – as he is substituted in first minute of injury time.