Manchester United booed off as Jose Mourinho flops fall further off the pace
MANCHESTER, England -- Three points on Manchester 0-0 Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.
1. United struggles continue
In seasons gone by, this would have been a routine afternoon for United but not anymore. A home game against a team who have not won a league match at Old Trafford since 1989 arriving on the back of a winless run stretching back to September would have meant a comfortable 2-0 win. Not quite.
Nothing is routine for United this season, and you can be sure of nothing other than it's going to be a struggle. It's the club's worst start to a season in 28 years.
Jose Mourinho has targeted a place in the top four by the end of December, but it is difficult to see how that can happen if they cannot beat Palace at home. Roy Hodgson's team are well organised, but they haven't won a league game since Sept. 15. They will be happy with a point, but they might feel they deserved more.
Cheikhou Kouyate had a goal ruled out for offside in the first half, and David De Gea made two good saves after the break. Andros Townsend wasted one of the best chances of the game when he fired wide of the far post.
Mourinho can be happy that for a change United kept a clean sheet -- just their second in the league this season, avoiding a new Premier League club record of conceding in a ninth straight game. But this is Palace at home and a 0-0 draw is not good enough.
United had chances and Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku forced Wayne Hennessey into good saves but the late winner they have relied on more than once this season never arrived. There were boos at full-time as the struggle goes on.
2. Mourinho's men do not excite
United fans, for the most part, will keep coming to Old Trafford. It's what they have always done, and anyway, things have been far worse than this.
Still, for the thousands upon thousands who troop into the stadium week after week, there is an acceptance this isn't a team to be excited about. Any thrill they get during a game these days is usually caused by the unpredictability of it all rather than because they're watching a masterclass of wonderful attacking football.
If Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are "Swan Lake," this is like watching "Takeshi's Castle." Entertaining? Sometimes, because anything could happen. Beautiful? Erm, no. Against Palace, Mourinho picked a forward line of Lukaku, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, but at half-time it was predictably still 0-0. They have been in front at the break in just one game since Sept. 25.
Before an hour was on the clock it was back to Plan B and time to throw on Marouane Fellaini to see if he could cause the same chaos you might expect from an inflatable ball covered in shaving foam being thrown at a man walking across a tightrope.
It has worked plenty of times before, but this time Palace stood firm and could even have snatched a winner on the break. The disgruntled fans who streamed out of Old Trafford at the final whistle will be back for more against Young Boys on Tuesday.
3. Zaha Palace's spark
Mourinho has said often since arriving at Old Trafford that there were decisions made before his time that he did not agree with. Selling Javier Hernandez was one, and you would think that casting off Wilfried Zaha is another.
Zaha will have better games for Crystal Palace this season but even in brief flashes, he was everything United are not -- quick, tricky and unpredictable. He managed a measly total of four first team games at United and just two in the Premier League. He was a victim of Louis van Gaal's huge overhaul of the squad after taking over from David Moyes and letting him return to Selhurst Park permanently for just £3 million in January 2015 looks more and more like a poor decision.
You can argue that Zaha has maybe found his level at Crystal Palace and he certainly did not do everything right during his short time at United. Still, every time he got the ball there was a spike of excitement from the visiting fans in the corner of Old Trafford. It is something United supporters have not felt for a while.
Zaha is central to Hodgson's team and their season will depend heavily on how successful he is and how often he is available. Mourinho may wish United still had Zaha at their disposal as well.