United a shadow of their former selves
Defeat at Selhurst Park marked the end of a miserable year for Manchester United. A season that had begun with huge excitement and the expectation of a title push, ends with the club in 6th place, on just 58 points - their lowest ever Premier League tally.
There wasn’t a huge amount in the game at Selhurst Park, which is telling in itself. Crystal Palace are a good side, but they are 12th. United did not look any better than their mid-table opponents and that is simply a reflection of their standards these days.
The Red Devils did scrape into the Europa League, as rivals West Ham lost at Brighton, and the onlooking Eric ten Hag will be grateful to have avoided the ignominy of playing in the Conference League next term. Nonetheless, on this viewing, he will be in no doubt about the size of the task that awaits him.
Gallagher signs off in a typically energetic style
Conor Gallagher’s time at Crystal Palace is over, and he signed off at Selhurst Park with a trademark, swashbuckling performance. The Chelsea loanee was everywhere, leading the Palace press with typically relentless energy, while desperately seeking a farewell goal.
That goal nearly arrived midway through the second half as his clever drop of the shoulder opened a yard of space on the edge of the box, but he dragged his left-footed shot wide.
It would have been the perfect way to sign off, but no matter what, Gallagher departs as a vastly improved player to the one who arrived, and with cult hero status assured among Eagles fans.
It has gone extremely well for him.
Palace formation switch worked well (for once)
With 23 minutes remaining, Patrick Vieira replaced Jesurun Rak-Sakyi – who was promising on his first league start – with Cheikhou Kouyate. This signalled a switch from a 4-3-3 formation to a back three in a clear attempt to shore things up at the back.
Palace have given away a lot of points late on this campaign from winning positions, with some questioning Vieira’s nous for game management.
Here, the switch worked well - taking off a man in midfield meant that Palace dropped deep and ceded possession, but were able to block up the gaps that had been appearing around their box. As a result, United couldn’t create any clear chances in the closing stages.
Vieira will regret that they haven’t been able to see games out this effectively all season, but the success of the switch yesterday will give them hope of turning a few of those draws into wins next campaign.
On a bad day for Manchester United, there were few good performances, but perhaps none quite as poor as Fred. The Brazilian has had a patchy career at Old Trafford, though this season has been one of their better performers.
Unfortunately at Selhurst Park, it was back to the old Fred, as he failed to exert any authority in the middle of the pitch and repeatedly gave the ball away. He carelessly overhit passes straight out of play several times, and this sloppiness led to his frustration boiling over.
He was also lucky to escape a yellow card from referee Martin Atkinson after throwing his toys out of the pram over a minor foul.
United supporters would have been relieved to see him hooked in the 75th minute for youngster Shola Shoretire.
Palace have many, many reasons to be cheerful
When Patrick Vieira was appointed as Crystal Palace manager last summer, few thought it would go this well. This victory was their first-ever home win against United in the Premier League and ensured they end the season in 12th place, with their best-ever defensive record in the Premier League.
They played some breathtaking football along the way; their squad boasts an impressive array of young talent, and the board intend to invest this summer once again.
This was the year that Palace firmly established themselves in the mid-table clique, and from now on, they should be looking up the league table, not down.