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Disjointed and Overrun, Man Utd Slumps to Loss on EPL Return

Disjointed and Overrun, Man Utd Slumps to Loss on EPL Return

Sunday, 20 September, 2020 - 09:00
Manchester United's Victor Lindelof reacts after a penalty is awarded to Crystal Palace during the Premier League match against Crystal Palace at the Old Trafford, Sept. 19, 2020. (AP)

Manchester United began its Premier League campaign with a performance as disjointed as its offseason.

Maybe the 3-1 home loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday shouldn’t really have come as a surprise.

After all, United only ended a pandemic-prolonged 2019-20 season 33 days ago with a demoralizing loss to Sevilla in the Europa League semifinals. Since then, high-profile midfielder Paul Pogba contracted the coronavirus, captain Harry Maguire was convicted of assault in Greece (he has been granted a retrial), and young star Mason Greenwood was dropped by England — and made to train alone — for breaching coronavirus rules.

To top it all off, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was without the majority of his squad for more than a week because of international commitments.

Still, how to explain such a listless display against an injury-hit Palace team?

“Today,” Solskjaer said, “was a performance you don’t see very often from this group.”

There was the sight of Pogba repeatedly giving the ball away. Maguire and fellow center half Victor Lindelof constantly got twisted and turned. Marcus Rashford was peripheral on the left wing. Greenwood only played the second half.

Meanwhile, Palace — battle-hardened after a more intense preseason and an opening-day win over Southampton last weekend — simply picked off United at an empty Old Trafford.

“We knew Manchester United didn’t play last week and that we had the mental advantage,” Palace winger Andros Townsend said. “If anything, we could have won it by more.”

Townsend scored the opening goal in the seventh minute and former United winger Wilfried Zaha netted twice in the final 16 minutes, the first being a retaken penalty after United goalkeeper David de Gea was adjudged to have encroached before saving the initial spot kick taken by Jordan Ayew.

The only positive for United was a debut goal for offseason signing Donny van de Beek, who came off the bench and made it 2-1 in the 80th with a precise finish following a mistake by Palace.

United should improve as the season progresses and perhaps more players are signed to add depth to the squad.

Solskjaer will sure hope so.

On a day when 21 goals were scored in four games, there were also wins for Everton, Leeds and Arsenal.

Rodriguez's impact

Two games in and James Rodriguez is already making a big impact at Everton.

The Colombia playmaker scored his first goal in English football and set up the last of Dominic Calvert-Lewin's three goals as Everton overwhelmed 10-man West Bromwich Albion in a 5-2 win at Goodison Park.

Rodriguez also shone in Everton's first game — a 1-0 win at Tottenham — and has settled quickly under the stewardship of Carlo Ancelotti, who he also played for at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Aside from his goal and assist, Rodriguez was involved in the game's key moment when he was shoved in the face by Kieran Gibbs soon after scoring in an action that earned the West Brom left back a straight red card in first-half stoppage time.

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic was also sent off for protesting the decision as the teams walked off at halftime.

Nketiah late show

Eddie Nketiah came off the bench to score an 85th-minute winner as Arsenal beat West Ham 2-1 for a second straight victory.

The England under-21 striker had only been on the field for eight minutes when he stretched to tap in a low cross from Dani Ceballos.

Alexandre Lacazette's opener for Arsenal had been canceled out by a well-worked team goal finished off by Michail Antonio just before halftime.

West Ham has lost both of its games so far.

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