In the past few weeks Manchester United has torn the teams apart thanks to an attacking unit that has started to connect regularly at the same frequency, but there will be times when they cannot find the same wavelength and the game suddenly starts to seem much more difficult.
This was certainly the case in Selhurst Park, where lethargy seemed to play an important role as a decline in form in United, losing some of the verve shown by their strikers in the past few weeks.
So when the interaction and quick switch does not open the teams, you need a different approach, which is when having players who can shine individually is vital.
United is beginning to bring that threat too. Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes can probably claim to be world class, although the Portuguese is still proving he can be placed in that category in his first big move outside of Portugal.
In attack Marcus Rashford joined the ranks of elite strikers this season and while his teammates worked hard in South London, he shone.
The wonderful individual goal he scored in the first half of the interval brought him to 22 goals for the season and for a player who was once accused of not having a clear head when the whites of the places showed up was a brilliant game to sit three defenders of the Palace before sneaking into the opposite corner.
His run that led Fernandes to hit the post in the second half was a devastating piece of offensive play and his first pass in the Anthony Martial for the goal was also top class.
Rashford has been the subject of some criticism since the Premier League was restarted and took time to hit his straps again, not playing since January.
But based on these tests, it looks better and there is a reason why Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain have both been connected to Rashford in the previous 18 months. Because it is world class.
Wan-Bissaka vs Zaha
Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s late conversion to fullback during his ascent to the Crystal Palace Academy came when he took part in a first team training session to recover the numbers and then kept Wilfried Zaha quiet. At least that’s how the story goes.
Based on last night’s rehearsals, you wonder if that story has been embellished in some way over time, given that Zaha was dominant in his personal duel with United’s right back.
Zaha may still have wished to prove a point to United, given his failure to achieve the rank at Old Trafford and his desire to gain a second chance in a big club, but it was Palace’s main threat in all and he gave in Wan-Bissaka one of his most difficult nights of the season.
The former Palace full back has kept Raheem Sterling silent this season, but has struggled with Zaha, who was at the center of Palace’s best chance.
Threat on set
United have looked more dangerous from the corners since Fernandes started catching them and they could have easily scored from one in the first half, with Harry Maguire finishing dangerous deliveries on three occasions.
But every time Maguire has sent very presentable off-target opportunities. In tight games where the spark is missing, as in the first half, bringing a threat from free kicks can be a considerable bonus, but Maguire losing good chances in the box has been a theme this season. He sent a quarter off target, again from a corner of Fernandes, in an injury.
The United captain has scored only one header all season, a final to beat Chelsea from a corner of Fernandes, with his two FA Cup goals with his feet, but it seems he could have had at least three more or four.
Learn from your mistakes
When United spent the past weekend watching Chelsea and Leicester City endure embarrassing defeats, they couldn’t have imagined kicking off at Selhurst Park knowing that their hopes for Champions League football were hanging in the balance.
The results of that weekend opened the doors to United but for the umpteenth time this season they entered the chassis rather than through it. When Chelsea beat Norwich City and Leicester triumphed against Sheffield United, it was almost a win or a failure for Solskjaer’s team.
It hasn’t always been convincing, but victory is exactly what they have done and Champions League football remains in their hands, although it may require a victory at King Power Stadium on the last day.
When the pressure was on United he replied, which must be encouraging for Solskjaer, even though they have sometimes ridden luck.
Indications FA Cup
In short, we don’t really have many. Nemanja Matic would seem like an obvious appetizer against Chelsea after being rested at Selhurst Palace and then coming off the bench, but the top five, who have all had a heavy workload in recent times, were all appetizers against Palace.
Pogba, Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, Martial and Rashford have now started six games in 23 days, having never played in a competition for at least 100 days before. You would expect everyone to start on Sunday, which would mean seven games in 26 days.
United looked exhausted against Southampton on Monday evening and started slowly against Palace and rarely improved. Solskjaer and his technical staff were desperate to see the players move the ball faster and press higher on the field, but evidently the energy was lacking. United seemed lethargic.
This will be a major concern given the rapid turnaround for United, who will return to Manchester only briefly before returning to the capital for the semifinal with a Chelsea team that had 48 extra hours of rest and less distance to travel.