A contentious decision not to award former United man Wilfried Zaha a penalty after being caught by Victor Lindelof, coupled with a narrow offside decision against Jordan Ayew, left many feeling that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were a little fortunate to beat Crystal Palace 2-0.
But Manchester United’s second goal – scored by Anthony Martial – underlined just how potent this team has become of late. Such is their quality in the final third, they are capable of taking a game away from their opponents in an instant. Their form since the restart has been strong.
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In fact, in extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 18 games, United are the only team yet to suffer a Premier League defeat since the action resumed. With five wins and two draws, they are averaging 2.43 points per game – better than any of their rivals.
There is work still to do to secure Champions League football next season but optimism is high once more – and why would it not be given the quality that the team is now showing?
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Fernandes so decisive
Decisive performances from Bruno Fernandes are becoming a familiar sight. It would be a stretch to say that the Portuguese midfielder controlled the game against Crystal Palace but he just appears to have that happy knack of being the central figure in the key moments that swing contests his side’s way.
At Selhurst Park, it was Fernandes’ quick one-two in the build-up that allowed him to find Marcus Rashford inside the penalty box for the opening goal. For the second, he provided the assist to the assist – the clever pass threaded through his marker’s legs that Rashford accepted before playing in Martial first time to double United’s lead.
Fernandes now has four assists since the restart – more than any other player in the Premier League in that time – as well as five goals, putting him fourth on that list too. As a result, no player has been involved in more goals since football returned. Right now, Fernandes is the Premier League’s most decisive player. What a signing.
Martial’s magical year
If Fernandes is the restart king then Martial might be the man of 2020. Not only is he one of those three players to have outscored his team-mate this past month, he is the top scoring Premier League player in all competitions in 2020 with 12 goals. Ten of them have come in the Premier League itself with Mohamed Salah the only other man in double figures.
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There had long been speculation about Martial’s best position. The Frenchman has spent plenty of his United career out on the left wing with Rashford sometimes preferred in that central role but that debate appears to be over. The pair are dove-tailing perfectly.
In fact, the combination play that led to United’s second against Palace was the seventh time that one of the two players has assisted the other for a goal in this season’s Premier League. Remarkable as it might seem given the success that the club enjoyed under Sir Alex Ferguson, that is the most of any pairing in a single season for Manchester United.
Greenwood due a rest?
Solskjaer will be understandably delighted by the way that his front five have clicked since the restart. He has hit upon something with the pace of Martial, Rashford and Mason Greenwood, supplemented by the craft of Fernandes and Paul Pogba.
But one note of caution. This was the fifth game in 17 days that the quintet have been asked to start and there have been signs in these past two games that the sparks are more intermittent. It is true that the five substitute rule has spared several of them even more minutes but Greenwood, as impressive as he has been, looks in need of a little rest.
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