Performance and result to suggest Mourinho’s assertion that United could be in the top four when 2019 starts should be classified as wishful thinking
'Not enough intensity, not enough desire': Jose Mourinho offers scathing analysis after Manchester United held by Crystal Palace
To begin with the good news for Manchester United: they kept a belated first clean sheet of the league season at Old Trafford, and only their second anywhere.
And there, abruptly, the positivity ends on another bleak day for Jose Mourinho. “There is no chance to see it as one point we win,” he admitted. “Because there are two points we lose.” The game would have been lost, too, granting Crystal Palace a first win at Old Trafford since 1989, but for a close offside call, more David de Gea saves and a couple of glaring misses from a goal-shy Palace team.
It was both a performance and a result to suggest Mourinho’s assertion that United could be in the top four when 2019 starts should be classified as wishful thinking. Rather more critical thinking followed a stalemate as he castigated his players in a scathing analysis; a manager who had questioned the maturity of a quartet suggested too many did not care enough.
“Not enough intensity,” lamented the Portuguese. “Not enough desire. Not enough from the heart. Palace deserve some credit but we have to blame ourselves.” He seemed to be blaming others, suggesting United were configured to exploit the spaces he identified and, in a further instance of dissatisfaction with his squad, implying the criteria for selection would have to change and some players may be cast aside.
“I give everything I can every day,” he said. “You cannot change players’ natures dramatically. The solution is that probably I have to make certain choices based on heart."
His team gave Palace too few difficulties, even if they almost pilfered victory. The recalled Romelu Lukaku tapped in the rebound after Wayne Hennessey parried Ashley Young’s shot. Assistant referee Marc Perry deemed the Belgian offside. Hennessey later clawed away Lukaku’s header, but the striker’s goal drought now stretches to 923 minutes. The goalkeeper also made a terrific stop from Jesse Lingard, but while the game finished with the Palace fans chorusing his name, heroics were rarely required.
Nor did United’s other marquee signings have much to savour. Paul Pogba was removed for the final quarter after one of his more infuriating performances. Alexis Sanchez’s cameo was summed up by a pass that went behind Anthony Martial and ruined a promising counter-attack. The Frenchman later shot into the side netting but failed to score in a league game for the first time since September.
Mourinho had summoned Marouane Fellaini, Marcus Rashford and, finally, Sanchez as, over the course of the game, he used eight attack-minded players. It was an indictment of them as, not for the first time, the left-back Young posed the greatest threat.
Not penetrative enough at one end, too open at the other, United again struggled to find the balance between attack and defence as Palace used pace and power to catch them on the break. Arguably the most compelling forward on show was Alex Ferguson’s final signing. Wilfried Zaha was watched by the man who bought him, though Ferguson’s successors never granted him a United league start.
Zaha whipped a shot just wide and combined with Max Meyer when Patrick van Aanholt scuffed a shot wide. Andros Townsend later surged through a static United defence only to skew his eventual effort. The forceful Cheikhou Kouyate’s celebrations were curtailed when he headed in Luka Milivojevic’s free kick; he, too, was judged offside and De Gea made a double save from Kouyate and Van Aanholt.
“On another day, if fate had been kinder and we had been a bit more clinical, we could have won it,” said Palace manager Roy Hodgson. “I have got the satisfaction of believing the team played extremely well. At least we got something.”
United’s players got criticism from a manager who implied some lacked the required attitude. “There are people that will have a bad dinner,” Mourinho said. “There are people who will have a nice dinner and party.”