A team of second string players fell short of the mark against Crystal Palace as Manchester United exited from the Carling Cup in the quarter-finals.
The first goal of the match took a while coming but in the 65th minute Palace were allowed time on the ball as they passed it round United before Darren Ambrose picked the ball up 35 yards out from goal to thunder a shot past the helpless Ben Amos.
United equalised when Federico Macheda was pulled down in the Palace area. He took the penalty himself, coolly slotting past Price in between the Palace posts.
Crystal Palace won the match in extra time when Murray met a cross from a free kick well and headed past Amos.
It was a rather poor performance from a team of players who should really have been trying to impress their manager as they all try to feature in his first team plans. Chris Smalling returning from injury played well as he stayed solid at the back, he also gave good cover from mistakes in the rest of the defence.
A drab display in the attack for United was the reason for the lack of goals and United’s failure to go ahead at any point of the game. None of the featuring strikers put in much of a case for their manager to pick them on a more regular basis.
Despite disappointment from the majority of the team one man who did shine for United, maybe unexpectedly, was everyone’s favourite scapegoat Darron Gibson. After a transfer to Sunderland seemingly fell through in the summer at the end of a season in which he received a lot of criticism, mostly from his own fans, Gibson had yet to feature this season for United.
Gibson sat in the heart of the midfielder controlling the play, something which has been missing in many of United’s games so far this season. He was calm on the ball with a very successful pass rate. His smart mixture of long and short passes may have come to more if the attacking play ahead of him had been better. He played some very neat short passes as United kept the ball and built up play and his long balls into the forwards made for very intelligent play. It was Gibson who started off the move which won the penalty with a clever pass into the attackers amongst the Palace defence.
Gibson even attempted a couple of his trademark pile-drivers, one of the only things he has been adjudged as getting right during his time at United. With the United attack looking uninspiring Gibson attempted to drive the team forward with his own attempts.
At a time when United appear to be lacking someone who can dictate the play in the midfield, Darron Gibson may have strengthened his chances of getting a look in the first team with his clever passing and ability to control the game. His subtle style of play against Palace may have seemed much more effective were it not for the failure of the attack in front of him.