By Ayomide Sotubo
Manchester United collected all three points in the game against Crystal Palace in a hard fought 1-0 victory to get the Ralf Ragnick era up to a winning start.
Fred, an unlikely match winner put United in front just before the last ten minutes as the team had control of the game from start to finish.
Here are the 5 things we learned about the game against Palace:
1) Fred will be an important player in the Ragnick era.
Much was made about how the players would fit into Ragnick’s counter pressing game before a ball was kicked in the new era. It was ideal that the likes of Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo made it into the team, but Fred Rodrigues making it into the team and scoring a scourger from 20 yards out with his right foot?
Not even the fans with the best crystal ball would have predicted such an impact or performance from a player who alongside Scott McTomminay was much maligned by fans for being symbolic of Ole’s reign, McFred they called the partnership.
Fred not only scored with his right foot (which is incredibly worthy of note), but was also at the heart of winning the ball back in the press, just like he has been doing in recent games especially against Villarreal.
After one game under Ragnick, Fred is already an important player to how United will approach games in the new era.
2) Ronaldo can press.
“There’s no geItting away from it, a Gegenpress and Cristiano Ronaldo mix about as well as oil and water.”
It might be too early to preempt the validity of such an assertion which has become popular, but his work rate and defensive contribution against Palace prove claims that he cannot press is a myth.
Was he required to press under Ole? Is he willing to adapt to the rigorous requirements of being the first line of defense in the team? Going by how the game panned out, yes he can.
It remains to be seen how much he’ll accept the responsibility as the team continues to understand what Ragnick demands. At least for now, we know he can press if he’s willing to and that’s backed up by the German’s praise of him after the game.
“By the way, Cristiano Ronaldo’s work off the ball, chapeau.”
3) Alex Telles might have won himself a place in the starting line up.
His compatriot may take all the plaudits for the victory against Palace, but Alex Telles is becoming an unsung hero and reliable option for United.
Telles has found playing time hard to come by since he joined the Red Devils but is now staking his claim for a starting berth after stringing solid, if not assured performances in recent games.
His first league appearance was against Manchester City in early November but he’s started the last three Premier League outings.
He played a crucial role in securing their first home clean sheet of the league campaign in what ended as a sturdy defensive showing against a Crystal Palace side restricted to just five shots. He had 104 touches, more than his teammates. He also won 53% of his duels and contributed seven tackles.
Luke Shaw should return to full fitness soon but he would have to fight for his place against Telles.
4) Ralf Ragnick’s instant impact
The first 25 minutes of the game was as exciting and intense as it got for the Old Trafford faithful.
This was the same United team that played like college boys in the chaotic games against Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City and Watford.
United pressed as a unit, and with purpose. It was so telling that they won two corner kicks in the first five minutes and had up to 12 ball recoveries in the opposition half, which is already the most of its kind since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson.
It was a rampant display and performance whose result doesn’t suggest what happened in the match. Marcus Rashford created five chances despite looking indifferent, Sancho and Fernandes looked lively while on the pitch, David De Gea rarely had to make an important save like he always had to this season and United had complete control of the game from start to finish.
The only thing lacking in yesterday’s exciting game was the lack of goals but the goals will surely be enough to go round once the team can get to understand how Ragnick wants them to play. The signs are encouraging for United in the new era after only just one serious training session.
5) Winnable fixtures follow.
After the last group game against Young Boys on Wednesday, United have a long list of winnable fixtures until they face any big six side.
This should give Ragnick enough time to implement his ideas on the team. United’s season is definitely not over and have more than enough to make the season a successful one.