LONDON • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer blamed a lack of preparation time for Manchester United’s losing start to the English Premier League season as Wilfried Zaha scored twice against his former club to hand Crystal Palace a 3-1 win at Old Trafford on Saturday.
United ended last season a little over a month ago due to their run to the Europa League semi-finals and had just two weeks of pre-season training together.
“You can see we are short and they deserved the points,” said the United manager. “We are not at our best yet because this is the first game we’ve played since the middle of August. We have had a very short and strange pre-season.”
United finished last season on a 14-match unbeaten run in the Premier League to secure third place.
But on this evidence, they need far more than the solitary signing of Donny van de Beek, who scored on his debut, to compete at the top.
Solskjaer, though, refused to use a lack of new signings as an excuse.
“We have to perform better,” he added. “We are looking to improve if there is someone available at the right price. But we can look at ourselves in the mirror today instead.”
Palace, who opened the scoring through Andros Townsend, have now won their first two games of a top-flight season for the first time in what was their second successive win at United.
The Eagles took a 2-0 lead when a penalty was awarded after consultation with the video assistant referee (VAR) after Jordan Ayew’s shot hit Victor Lindelof on the arm.
David de Gea saved Ayew’s first penalty, but the spot-kick had to be retaken as VAR deemed the Spaniard to be off his line. Zaha converted from the spot before ensuring the three points were safe with Palace’s third.
While Solskjaer criticised the VAR decision, insisting “it was not a penalty”, former United defender Gary Neville feels United will not be able to win the league with their current centre-back partnership.
2015 The last time Man United lost their league opener (2-1 to Swansea).
“Over the years, the best partnerships have always had that really quick one who has lightning pace to get across and snuff out the danger. Lindelof and (Harry) Maguire just don’t have that,” he said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS