Crystal Palacemanchester_united_logo_(c)_www(dot)thehardtackle(dot)comCRYSTAL PALACE

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MANCHESTER UNITED

Selhurst Park, London

February 22, 2014; 17:30 GMT

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Selhurst Park welcomes the reigning League champions as Tony Pulis prepares his Crystal Palace side for a big scalp. It has been a torrid season for Man United and their new management, and things could perhaps get worse this weekend.  Under Pulis, the Eagles are a much improved side, especially on their own turf. Man United on the other hand seem to have forgotten what it takes to win games. As it stands all things point to a close, nervy encounter this weekend.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Crystal Palace

Although, Crystal Palace will have to overturn 23 years of history if they are to defeat United, yet nobody would bet against them getting the desired result. The Selhurst Park outfit have not beaten United in the league since 1991. Palace are on a great run winning three of their last four league games – a run that has seen them climb to 15th in the table. However, the bottom half of the table is incredibly tight and a defeat could get Pulis’ side back into the relegation places, depending on the results elsewhere.

On the injury front, Crystal Palace can report no major injury worries which must be a great luxury for Tony Pulis as he looks to create history for himself and the club– Pulis is yet to win as a manager against the Red Devils. January acquisition Tom Ince is undoubtedly a major coup for the London outfit, Ince’s control, pace, and eye for goal are all worthy assets and United’s shaky defence are sure to be given a stern test by the youngster. Other notable performers for the Eagles this season would surely be the likes of Puncheon, Jedinak and Chamakh. Jedinak has been a big presence in the Palace midfield for much of the season, while Chamakh has found a new lease of life after faltering at Arsenal and West Ham.

Palace are miserly in defense, and just like any Tony Pulis side ready to battle and fight hard. But, Palace are not just the archetypal long ball merchants, with Tom Ince and Jason Puncheon among their ranks, the Londoners also have the quality on the ball to trouble Premier league defenses.

Crystal Palace predicted starting XI: Speroni; Ward, Ledley, Dikgacoi, Dann; Delaney, Puncheon, Jedinak, Ince; Chamakh, Bolasie

Manchester United

David Moyes and United have perhaps lost all hopes of securing the coveted fourth spot, although the manager wouldn’t say it out loud. The midweek Champions league game away in Greece is undoubtedly the bigger fixture, ergo expect Moyes to tinker. The Old Trafford side are well rested and even enjoyed the luxury of travelling to Dubai for warm weather training and team bonding, during the break after the game at Emirates.  But, Moyes and Unted must start winning games and start to show improvement in performance levels, which so far have been dismal.

On the injury front for Manchester United, David Moyes is still without Danny Welbeck with a knee injury and has a number of defenders on the sidelines. However, some good news could come in the form of Jones’ return from the concussion he suffered a couple of weeks ago. Other absentees include, Rafael, Evans and Nani, while Fellaini could make his long awaited comeback after making the bench against Arsenal last week.

Record signing Juan Mata is sure to start as he isn’t eligible to play midweek in the Champions League. Moyes could bench one of his two star strikers and play Mata in his preferred position behind the fornt man. In midfield Moyes will chose two from the quartet of Fletcher, Cleverley, Carrick and Fellaini, depending on what he has in mind for the midweek game. At the back Evra is sure to start along with perhaps the pair of Smalling and Evans as the two center backs.

Man United need a good display to build momentum and carry that confidence into their European campaign. The league campaign looks a lost cause, but stranger things have happened and the aim from now on must be to win every game and see where that takes them.

Man United predicted starting XI: De Gea; Jones, Smalling Vidic Evra; Young, Fletcher, Cleverley, Valencia; Mata; Rooney

Key Facts

  • Wayne Rooney has gone five successive Premier League appearances without scoring or assisting a goal for Man Utd – his longest-such run since December 2011(seven games).
  • Manchester United have won nine and lost none of their last 11 league meetings with Crystal Palace.
  • Since Tony Pulis took charge of his first Palace game in the Premier League on November 30th 2013; the Eagles have won just two points fewer (19) than Manchester United (21), but have played one game less.

Players To Watch-out For

Tom Ince (Crystal Palace)

Heads turned when Palace announced the signing of the fomer Blackpool star, as a lot of top clubs had their eye on the youngster. Premier League fans have waited to see why Ince is worthy of such high praise, finally Ince is ready to showcase his prodigious talent.

Prediction

Crystal Palace 1-1 Manchester United

Crystal Palace at home, under Pulis, are as tough as it gets. United have struggled for momentum throughout their campaign and at Selhurst Park expect the trend to continue.

Blast From The Past