Manchester United’s two biggest problems were exposed this week – Richard Fay

United have made a good habit of grinding out gritty wins during their resurgent run of late, but this time they ran out of a little bit of luck as their subdued second-half performance was punished in dramatic fashion.

On another night, United might well have won. Scott McTominay could easily have been awarded a penalty when he went down in the box; Michael Olise could have been penalised for taking his stunning free-kick from further forward than it was awarded; and Casemiro could quite easily have bundled in a late winner deep into stoppage time.

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Instead, this was a night on which the fine margins went against United, though they have so often gone in their favour already this season. Once again, they relied on David de Gea to defy the odds with stupendous saves and relied on a moment of brilliance to score rather than doing so as a result of sheer dominance.

It so easily could have been the same outcome in similar away games against Southampton, Leicester, Everton, Fulham, and Wolves, where despite dominating, United failed to take their chances when on top and had some dicey defensive moments.

United&aposs luck finally caught up with them, making the dropped points against Palace hardly a disaster, though it did serve as a timely reminder that they still have a long way to go in terms of killing off games.

A large part of this is due to United&aposs lack of killer instinct up front, with the side still heavily reliant on the brilliance of Marcus Rashford to drag them over the line.

In matches when the England international is not at his best, it then falls onto other creative players to sprinkle a bit of magic, just as Christian Eriksen did to set up Bruno Fernandes on Wednesday night.

Even at the halfway stage of the season, United&aposs goal difference sits at just +8, 20 behind the two teams above them in the Premier League, despite having played one match more than them.

Ten Hag will hope that the arrival of Wout Weghorst will help to address this issue once he is fully integrated into the side, though it will also depend on fellow forwards Anthony Martial and Antony living up to their potential as regular scorers.

Another issue for United is that they have a lack of trusted squad options to call upon, something that limits the changes they can actually make during a match.

Bruno Fernandes was sacrificed again against Palace, being shoehorned into a less effective wing role when they decided to take Antony off, with no other suitable forward available to come on.

With such a packed fixture schedule ahead, it also felt like United took their foot off the gas in the second half at Selhurst Park to preserve energy for their upcoming clash at Arsenal, a risk that backfired with the late equaliser.

This all contributes to an over reliance on a core group of players, who need to be managed carefully in the upcoming weeks if United are to overcome the fixture congestion and keep their grip on a top-four finish.

The most straightforward solution would simply be to start scoring more goals so that they are in a more comfortable position during matches, though that is, of course, far easier said than done.

However, there is a counter-argument that scoring one goal a game is still enough, as long as they manage their leads more carefully and don&apost concede at the other end.

United&aposs goal is to do a bit of both. They not only need to pose more of a threat in the final third, but they also need to use all of their experience in order to kill games off and not allow their opponents back into them.

There have been a lot of signs of progress, but there is still a lot of work to do.


Weghorst showed Ten Hag was right about him