On May 9th, Manchester United travel down to Selhurst park to take on Crystal Palace. Despite the somewhat perilous positions for these two sides around Christmas, both of them face a relatively comfortable end to the season. While the top four is technically still up for grabs, United are heavy favourites for that all important fourth spot and realistically just need to grab four or five more points, even if Liverpool win their remaining fixtures. Palace, on the other hand, have had a revival since appointing Alan Pardew. They’ve already passed that all important 40 point mark and will be looking to finish as high up the table as possible. Both sides are in relatively safe positions, so that could mean that this turns into a very exciting open game of football.
Palace have a mostly full squad to work with going into this one. Jerome Thomas is the only player that is absolutely out, while both Frazier Campbell and Marouane Chamakh will face late fitness tests on their respective hamstring injuries. United on the other hand have quite a few injuries to deal with. Both Michael Carrick and Rafael will miss out for not only this game, but the rest of the season. Luke Shaw, James Wilson, Jonny Evans, and Marcos Rojo will all face late fitness tests before the match.
Manchester United have not lost a league match against Palace since 1991. The Reds have won 13 of their last 17 encounters with the Eagles, with their only loss coming in the then Carling Cup in 2011. Crystal Palace are the only team in the Premier League that has claimed more points away from home than at home. United on the other hand are the only team in the top four with a negative goal difference away from home, and they have only won five of their 17 away games. Manchester United have gone 287 minutes without scoring, including going scoreless in their last three games.
Crystal Palace: Scott Dann
Palace will need to be very organized in defense if they’re going to get anything out of this one. While the wingers at Palace, like Bolasie and Zaha, get a lot of credit, one player that does not get a lot of credit but is instrumental to the team is Scott Dann. The solidity that the partnership of Dann and Delaney has allows Palace to play their entertaining and effective counter attacking football. Louis Van Gaal’s side has struggled with teams that absorb pressure and counter. If Palace are to do this effectively, Scott Dann will need to be at his best.
Manchester United: Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney is the key player for United, but they key man is really Louis Van Gaal. If he uses him in midfield again, he’ll be making a huge mistake. After using Rooney as a striker to good effect, Van Gaal has decided to put him back in midfield and it hasn’t exactly been working out. Wayne Rooney is a world class player but he is being wasted in midfield, especially in defensive midfield. Van Gaal must deploy him at striker, or else United’s chances of winning go down by a lot.
This will be a very tight game but I see United just escaping with the three points. Palace have struggled at home this season because they play better when they play an away side. They’re most dangerous on the break, and they can’t be as effective at breaking. While United have struggled against treams that sit back, I think they’ll just be able to get the three points.
Prediction: 2-1 Manchester United