Manchester United have three options who can solve their midfield dilemma – Richard Fay
Chasing the game under the intense heat of the rare Manchester sunshine, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his side looked lost for ideas as they perpetually came unstuck. Passes were over hit and crosses were blocked as frustrations grew higher with each move which failed to bring a clear chance at goal along with it.
In the end it was little surprise that United only managed to break past the Palace barricade thanks to a stupendous effort from the energetic efforts of Daniel James, a moment of magic which almost saved embarrassment.
Something needs to change in the line up, and United fans only comfort comes in the hope that a new attacking approach is formed as a remedy for their latest dropped points.
United’s trip to face Southampton this weekend will be a tricky test of similar proportions. It is over 10 years since United last beat the Saints away from home by more than one goal, and that was an FA Cup tie against a then Championship opponent.
Southampton might be undergoing a transitional period under the guidance of Ralph Hasenhüttl but they are a formidable foe who will not be pushovers this weekend. It is looking set to be a stern test of United’s creativity on the ball.
However, it is not as if Solskjaer is stuck down a dead end and there are a few viable alternatives he can consider to bring a much needed spark to their midfield.
The most obvious choice would be to bring Juan Mata back into the fold. The Spaniard remains the most naturally gifted attacking midfielder at the club but is still only really suited to games against lower opposition.
Hindsight made it an easy argument to suggest the 31-year-old should have started against Wolves a week ago, but his exclusion from the starting XI against Crystal Palace was baffling.
Another option might be to give Andreas Pereira another chance in an attacking role. Playing as a No.10 remains his favoured position, but after a poor display against Chelsea, he had no arguments over losing his place.
The juxtaposition is that other players have played worse than the Brazilian this season and he has every right to justify his place in the team ahead of Jesse Lingard or Scott McTominay.
Then we come onto Angel Gomes. The academy starlet has been unfortunate to miss out on a place in the final match-day squad three times this season, and deserves to be given a chance on the bench at least.
It is naive to think United will dominate Southampton out of divine right this weekend, but with a couple of changes to their attacking line up they’ll certainly have a better chance.