Manchester United have a great opportunity to strengthen their position in the top four as they host bottom-placed Crystal Palace. They have been excellent at the beginning of the new season and will see this as a game that they must win if they are to challenge for the title. The Red Devils haven’t lost a league match to the visitors since 1991 and the Eagles have won only one of their last 13 meetings of the two clubs. Last season, United completed the double in the Premier League and they will be confident of doing the same this weekend.
Jose Mourinho led the team to a 6th placed finish last season, but it was clear that the side were making progress under the new manager and the signings made this summer have taken them to a new level. Romelu Lukaku has started in superb form, while Nemanja Matic has been a dominating force in the midfield. It is too soon to suggest they are favourites to win the title, as their local rivals look incredible, but they will certainly be in the running.
Crystal Palace have had a disastrous start to the season and it is looking like it will continue this weekend as they travel to Old Trafford. They have lost all six of their matches without scoring a goal and they come into this match after a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Manchester City. It is a huge ask for them to return to Manchester the following week to gain a positive result against the equally dominant United. Roy Hodgson will want to see progress from his squad, but the fixture list hasn’t been kind to him. If they suffer another heavy defeat, confidence levels will reach an all-time low and that would be a huge concern for the future.
- Anthony Martial has now scored and assisted in his last two Manchester United games. The Frenchman is pushing for a regular starting spot for the club.
- No team in Football League history has suffered a longer winless run without scoring a goal at the beginning of a season than Palace with six.
There were many that had doubts regarding Romelu Lukaku’s ability to make an instant impact at Old Trafford and prove that he was good enough for the elite level. However, he has now scored nine goals in eight appearances across the Premier League and Champions League, which is a great run of form for the Belgian. Although Zlatan Ibrahimovic was effective last season, the new number nine looks to be a better fit for the system and the team look more dangerous as a result. The Swedish legend will have a part to play when he returns from injury, but he won’t be a regular starter ahead of Lukaku. The 24-year-old is the complete package, as his pace and power make him incredibly difficult to deal with for opposition defenders. At United, he has an improved supply line and he is making the most of that. Crystal Palace are a mess defensively at the moment with little confidence. It would be a surprise if the former Everton striker doesn’t get himself on the score-sheet.
Roy Hodgson will want to build his Palace side around a select few players in the current squad and Scott Dann will be one of those to play a prominent role this season. He has been on the fringes of the England squad for the last few seasons, which highlights how highly he is thought of in this country. Crystal Palace haven’t been impressive defensively, but they have a talented pair in Mamadou Sakho and Dann. They proved themselves last season and they will be hoping to strike up a good partnership once again. In the Englishman, they have a reliable defender that has proved himself in the Premier League. He is good in the air and a leader capable of organising the back four. This weekend, his threat from set pieces could also come into play, as this will be the away side’s best chance of scoring a goal.
Anthony Martial is a doubt after picking up a knock against CSKA Moscow. Paul Pogba remains on the sidelines, while Michael Carrick is expected to miss out. Ander Herrera will be pushing for a start in midfield.
The Eagles were dealt a huge blow as Christian Benteke was ruled out for at least six weeks with ligament damage. This leaves Palace without a recognised centre-forward and Bakary Sako could be the player chosen to deputise. Wilfried Zaha is pushing for a return, but he is unlikely to feature this weekend.
On paper, this looks to be a straight-forward victory for the home side as they have been excellent to date and come into the fixture after a dominant win over CSKA Moscow in the week. Palace will be hoping that the travel plays a factor as the United players could be fatigued from their midweek excursions. It is important that they show an improvement and put in maximum effort as they try to turn around their fortunes. This won’t be as easy as many will expect it to be, but it should finish in a home win. United have too much quality for an out-of-form Palace team.