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Over to you, Ed! Man Utd's pitiful Palace defeat proves Solskjaer needs new signings ASAP

3:31 AM GMT+8 20/09/2020
Victor Lindelof Ole Gunnar Solskjaer David de Gea Man Utd Crystal Palace GFX
The fans' frustration over a lack of activity in the transfer market has now turned to fury after a dismal 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford

“Our approach will be about fine-tuning what we can do better this season,” Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wrote in his programmes notes ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace. “And we know what areas we’re looking to improve upon.”

Going by their performance in a chastening 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford, he’ll be looking for improvement all over the pitch.

There are mitigating circumstances, of course. Participation in the Europa League knockout tournament in Germany deprived United of a proper pre-season, meaning Solskjaer didn't have much time to work with his players.

However, the last few weeks have also been tinged with transfer frustration away from the training pitch, with No.1 target Jadon Sancho starting the season at Borussia Dortmund, and other possible solutions to United's lack of depth signing for rival clubs.

That fan frustration is now certain to be replaced with fury, after a terribly flat display resulted in United losing their Premier League opener for the first time since 2014 – Louis van Gaal’s first game in charge.

United's passing was sloppy, their movement slow and the defence all over the place.

When they came back after the restart, they attacked with a panache that struck fear into even the best defences in England but, on Saturday, they rarely troubled Roy Hodgson’s side.

A right-sided attacker remains Solskjaer priority before the transfer window closes on October 5 and the onlooking Ed Woodward was shown exactly why against Palace, as Daniel James was hauled off after 45 forgettable minutes.

The 22-year-old is deemed a good back-up option for Marcus Rashford down the left-hand side but he struggles on the opposite flank.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who started at right-back with Aaron Wan-Bissaka only returning to training on Monday, linked up with James 12 times in the first half – more than any other partnership on the pitch.

However, the duo failed to create anything of note, so it was no surprise to see James replaced by Mason Greenwood for the second half.

Right wing isn’t the only position in which United want to strengthen, of course. Their obvious vulnerability in defence was laid bare just seven minutes into the game.

At almost the exact moment Tottenham announced the arrival of Sergio Reguilon – a player United had considered signing – Luke Shaw was beaten to a cross from Jeffrey Schlupp by Andros Townsend, who fired the visitors ahead with a back-post finish.

Victor Lindelof, who has been heavily criticised in his three seasons at the club, was also at fault in the build-up, as he allowed Schlupp to get by him far too easily.

Shaw and Lindelof weren't the only poor performers, though. Paul Pogba, who was said to be fully fit and "raring to go", was lax in possession, making unforced errors all over the pitch, while the usually imperious Bruno Fernandes was ineffective.

United improved somewhat after the break, thanks to the introduction of Greenwood, and they were certainly unfortunate with some of the VAR decisions that went against them.

By the letter of the law, the visitors were rightly awarded a penalty in the 74th minute, after Jordan Ayew’s shot bounced onto Lindelof’s arm, but it only further highlighted the harshness of the new rules.

The decision to order a retake of the subsequent penalty, which was saved by David de Gea, because the Spanish goalkeeper had stepped marginally off his line was plain farcical, with former United defender and current Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville left particularly incensed by both calls.

The net result, though, was Wilfried Zaha succeeding where Jordan Ayew had failed, leaving United were left with a mountain to climb.

Donny van de Beek gave the hosts a glimmer of hope, by coolly converting a loose ball in the area to make his debut with a goal, but Zaha sealed a deserved victory for Palace by easily brushing aside Lindelof before firing low into the bottom corner of De Goal's net.

It was yet another reminder as to why United so desperately need to sign a top-class centre-half before deadline day.

The onus is certainly on Solskjaer to get more out of the players at his disposal but this dismal defeat hammered home the point that his employers need to act decisively and swiftly in the transfer market.

Time is already running out and this latest VAR controversy shouldn't be allowed to distract from the fact that this United squad is in dire need of strengthening.

Over to you, Ed...