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Crystal Palace vs Manchester United 21/22

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Hi everyone,

Hope you are all well.

On Sunday 23rd of May 2022 Palace hosted the final match of the 21/22 Premier League season at Selhurst Park against Manchester United. Palace were in competition for a finish in the top half of the table, which Manchester United were hoping for qualification into the Europa League, meaning both teams needed the 3 points but other games being played still played contributing factors.

After an absolute disaster at Goodison Park on Thursday night Vieira along with everybody involved with the team would’ve wanted to try their best to finish the season on a high. We went into this game unbeaten in our last 7 matches at Selhurst Park having kept clean sheet in 5 of those! Our last home fixture was a 1-0 win over Watford after a converted penalty from Wilfried Zaha. Manchester United came into this game off the back of a 4-0 defeat against our rivals Brighton and were having a rough season as I mentioned struggling to guarantee Europa League football for near season. The Red Devil’s made the trip down south for interim manager Ralf Rangnick’s final game in charge without Cristiano Ronaldo and a few other key players such as Jadon Sancho.

Patrick Vieira made four changes in comparison to our last home game bringing Guaita, Mitchell, Schlupp and Rak-Sakyi into the line up to replace Butland, Guehi, Eze and Olise. This was a huge moment for Jesurun Rak-Sakyi as he made his first Premier League start in front of a sold out Selhurst park, also a huge moment for the academy seeing how far he’s come and how much he and Tayo have achieved this season! Guehi (players player of the season) and Olise both dropped out of the squad completely due to injuries, hopefully they’re nothing serious but it did cause Ward to have to play in the centre back position to replace Marc. This was also potentially Gallagher's last game for us if we fail to make a deal with Chelsea in the summer.

We arrived at the stadium early in the hopes of meeting some of the players before so it wasn’t such a rush after, but it turned out they went in EXTRA early (11am) for the final match so we missed them. In the spare time I did manage to finally meet my friend Tom after trying the whole season but was just unable too as we sit so far apart, was great to finally meet him though!

I was also lucky enough to be given the opportunity to write a piece for the programme printed for this game, it was surreal to see my name and piece covering a whole page in a programme for the team I support, this is ultimately what I aspire to do after university so was extremely grateful. The piece was about football and my mental health linked to my time spent at the academy, if anyone is interested in reading it I’d be more than happy to share it, or you would find it in the programme under the aspiring writer’s section :).

The game started with a pretty balanced out opening few minutes, Edouard was played in behind in the first 5 mins for our first attack but nothing dangerous created. “Conor Gallagher” rang around the stadium as he was playing potentially his final 90 minutes in a Palace shirt, his name got a huge cheer when announced before the game, going to really miss him next year. Jesurun Rak-Sakyi started well not looking phased by the occasion getting stuck in and involved, United struggled to handle him like a few of our other player forcing them to be brought down to prevent any attacks. A banner was presented in the Holmesdale end reading ‘Vieira - leading from the front, Selhurst stands with you’ following the incidents on Thursday night at Goodison. On the 10 minute mark United began to assert their dominance on the ball, forcing us to look for counterattacking options. The first of which came from Zaha and Edouard linking up, Zaha’s final ball in behind was just too hard for Edouard to keep up with leaving it too trail to a United defender. Mitchell, our young player of the season, had a bit of a shaky start not being able to control the ball, which is very unlike him, may be due to fatigue after a long season. United first memorable chance came from a Fernandes shot which hit the head of a Palace player, this redirected the ball into path of Cavani who was unmarked forcing a good claw save away from Guaita. A free kick from another Rak-Sakyi foul was whipped in by Gallagher perfect weighted to the back post finding Andersen whose header was blocked out for a corner, from which we forced another good block from United defence. We grew into the game with a lot of the ball in our half. A dangerous attack occurred when Gallagher found a gap in behind finding Rak-Sakyi in lots of space, he made a direct run into the box before trying to find someone in the centre but was unsuccessful. Another counterattack through Schlupp feeding Zaha down the wing, he made a direct run towards goal before releasing a shot, saved by De Gea and no one there to get the rebound. Safe to say both teams had a fair share of poor passes in the first half. Just after the half hour mark the chances were coming thick and fast for us, in the 37th minute we was finally able to convert one! Zaha turned away from Dalot before cutting into the centre of the box and finally placing the ball into the back of the net - too far in the corner for De Gea to have a chance at saving! He ran to celebrate in front of the away fans, who had been silent the whole game so far and now definitely had nothing to shout about! This took us into the break 1-0 up!

Decent first half with lots of chances for us, arguably could’ve had more goals but very happy to have gone into the break in front. Zaha’s 14th goal of the season, against his old team what more could you want! If we continued the momentum we ended the first half with we would definitely get something from this game.

In the second half there was an early United free kick, Fernandes whipped in ended with a simple save for Guaita. A good interception from Clyne in his own half before releasing Edouard down the wing, he made a direct run towards goal but kept hold of the ball for too long ending with a loss of possession. The fouls from United continues in the second half, I was surprised how little the ref got his card out. Manchester United youngster Hannibal Mejbri was played in behind, Ward got a foot in preventing any real danger and allowing the ball to roll into Guaita’s hands. Another change to set piece taker saw Hughes be given the responsibility as Eze was not on the pitch, his deliveries were pretty good and were wasted. Gallagher had a chance to get his (potentially) final goal in a Palace shirt, he was given lots of space and time as the ball fell into his path, he went for the shot which just whistled wide of the far post. A long range first time shot from Mejbri forced a fingertip save over the bar from Guaita. Similar to the first half the middle portion of the half was dominated by United as we struggled to get out of our own half. The first Patrick Vieira substitution saw Jes Rak-Sakyi be replaced by Cheikhou Kouyate, he had a really good debut and should be very proud, this change meant we played 5 at the back just to be even more precautions not to let another lead slip. Gallagher seemed to be back to his usual self being all over the pitch and making a real impact, although it did mean he was on the floor a lot after the constant fouling. Another United chance came from a corner as they hunted for the equaliser, this time a header round the back from McTominay, again ended with simple save for Guaita. After a short period of dominance ourselves, we began to panic and struggled to clear the ball as we started to just hit and hope. A good cross field pass from Zaha found Edouard who made a direct run into the box but should’ve had a shot much earlier as the United defender made the block. The next substitution saw Edouard be replaced by Eze; Edouard had a pretty good game too gutted for him not to get a goal to end the campaign. The final event of the game was another substitution seeing Hughes be replaced by McArthur.

We managed to hold on and beat Manchester United for the first time at Selhurst Park in Premier League history. Our 6th consecutive clean sheet at Selhurst Park and what a performance from the boys, it really has become a fortress and full credit for that has to go to Patrick! The achievements under the Vieira era are just flying in and this is such a great time to be a Palace fan, I’m just gutted the season had to end! We finished the season in 12th place with a positive goal difference (which only 7 other teams managed to do!). I was impressed by Rak-Sakyi and how quickly he was comfortable in a Premier League situation, he definitely should be in Viera’s plans for next season. After the game the players did a lap of honour to show their appreciation to the fans, it was also a chance to say goodbye to the confirmed leaves of the club, only Martin Kelly was leaving from the squad and Phil Alexander our Chief Executive. It was also referee Martin Atkinson’s last game so he got a farewell gift too, although he was initially booed onto the pitch 😅. I found it a little strange that Conor Gallagher didn’t get a mention with that fact that this was potentially his last game with us, of course Steve Parish was hounded by the Selhurst crowd as “sign him up” was repeated as they all left the field. Finally, Zaha was awarded the Holmesdale Fanatics’ Player of the Season.

After the lap of appreciation, we went back outside the stadium in the hopes of meeting some of the players before they went off on their break. Some were just simply rude and had no time, but the ones that did were - Michael Olise, Tayo Adaramola, Conor Gallagher (potentially for the last time :(), James McArthur, Will Hughes, Nathaniel Clyne, Odsoone Édouard, Jesurun Rak-Sakyi and Tyrick Mitchell (although the photos of the last 2 disappeared off my PA’s phone :(). I have been trying to get Olise the whole season, we met this lovely Palace staff member who actually went and brought him out for me, so extremelyyyy grateful for Karoone (apologies on the spelling 😬).

It is now time for the players to have a well-deserved break, I hope you have a lovely break and in the words of Patrick Viera “see you next season with a higher ambition!”.

Thank you for reading

Ellie Xx


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