So Palace earned a credible goalless draw with the Premier League champions on Saturday - that was a good feeling.
Wait, what? You mean we lost 2-0?
Well, to me it was 0-0 as I missed the majority of the second half, including both goals because I was in the first aid room in the Whitehorse Lane Stand. Fortunately nothing was up with me, and nothing serious with my friend, who was being treated but it reminds you to put football into perspective. The defeat was marred by a coin throwing incident and my friend's injury - although it was dealt with superbly by the stewards - but then there were positives from the support; not least the superb HF display pre-match, the raucous atmosphere at times and a record number of sales for FYP . Nonetheless, from what I did see of the match, there were some positive signs but also the same old problems.
Glenn Murray returned to the starting line up for the first time in almost a year, much to the delight of the home supporters; but he struggled in a match where Palace were very much looking to defend first and snatch something on the counter.
Sadly, this tactic was to prove ineffective and a poorly timed challenge from Marouane Chamakh alongside a superb strike from Wayne Rooney caused the Eagles’ to fall to a first home defeat of the calendar year.
The defence was improved from the 3-1 victory over West Brom, with Scott Dann looking more capable and Damien Delaney alongside him sniffing out any attacks through the middle. The central defensive pairing did well to close down Manchester United’s star men in the first half but a few lapses of concentration and/or questionable tactics gave the Red Devils’ main men the opportunity to take shot at goal. Wayne Rooney and Adnan Januzaj both went close; but the real issues are obvious: Palace need to score more goals.
Murray’s return was great to see but the Eagles were rather ineffective in attack and even Tom Ince failed to inject any real impetus into the match. When Manchester United are lacking in confidence, you go for the jugular, not sit back jabbing and defending from any blows they may strike. Inevitably they will grow in confidence as the game progresses and take advantage of that against a lesser team, which is what happened.
One man who could potentially have made a difference with his pace and nous is little Jonny Williams. The Welsh wizard has departed on loan to Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town for a month. It is an important move for the youngster, who desperately needs an extended run of games in the first team somewhere, but Tony Pulis is unable to offer that to him.
It is hard to see where Williams would fit in with the style of play currently deployed by Pulis but arguably he should be the focal point of the team, with a team built around him. Allowed to develop properly, he will be Palace’s greatest ever academy graduate, but he must get over his niggling injuries and fitness concerns.
A run of matches at Ipswich will be a great starting point for a man beset by frustrating injury problems; so it’s time to start anew for Joniesta and hopefully we can see his true talent shine through back at Selhurst Park soon.