Old Trafford, Manchester
08 November 2014 1500 UTC
Football returns to Old Trafford after a sizeable gap and the home side have their collective backs against the wall for all practical purposes. While van Gaal’s side have shown more mettle than the previous season and have appeared determined in games, it does not change the hard fact that United are winless since the last 3 matches. The Old Trafford outfit followed up draws away at West Brom and at home against Chelsea with an away defeat at the Etihad Stadium against cross town rivals Manchester City. Supporters have taken heart from the fact that United have shown a dedication on the field that was surely missing last year but this solace counts for little because the Red Devils sit in 10th place after 10 games with only 13 points to their name. League leaders Chelsea have double the points from their 10 matches. United have dropped points against sides where they traditionally picked up the full complement of 3 points and this might prove to be their undoing when it comes to the battle for European football at the end of the season.
Team News, Tactical Brief and Predicted Line-ups
If anybody was wondering whether United’s defensive problems could get any worse, they were answered in the affirmative last weekend. With Phil Jones and Johnny Evans nursing injuries already, Rafael picked up a knock in pre-match training that ruled him out of the Manchester Derby and will also keep him out of the Crystal Palace fixture. Marcos Rojo, who by many accounts was lucky not to be sent off in the derby game, picked up a nasty looking shoulder injury that involved a shoulder dislocation thus ruling him out for a period of 6 weeks as per manager Louis van Gaal. Chris Smalling succumbed to a period of recklessness as he got sent off after receiving two yellow cards in the space of 6 minutes, thus ruling him out as well of the Crystal Palace game via a one match suspension. At the present moment, Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett and Luke Shaw are the only defenders, therefore, available to LvG for selection. Fielding all three would, however, be fraught with risk even against Crystal Palace and it is highly likely that LvG will field the same back four that finished the derby game i.e. Valencia on right back, Michael Carrick and Paddy McNair in central defense and Luke Shaw protecting the left flank.
Wayne Rooney’s return from suspension has boosted the threadbare United midfield. With Carrick, Herrera and Fletcher all on the bylines through different injuries, Fellaini’s resurgence over the last three matches has been a massive relief for United. The Belgian has been able to impose his physical presence on the game from the middle of the park and with Daley Blind sitting deep shielding the defensive line, has lent some solidarity to the midfield. Angel di Maria has been in phenomenal form since his arrival at Manchester United though there is definitely a case to be made to play him down the middle where he arguably performs better than when he is on the flanks. However, Rooney and Fellaini do seem grossly underutilised on the flanks and it is highly likely that di Maria would continue to be deployed on one of the flanks. Adnan Januzaj has been consistently improving as well and will claim the empty spot on the opposite wing. Radamel Falcao’s calf injury seems to be unhealed as yet and will most probably keep him off the pitch for this fixture as well, allowing Robin van Persie to start as the lone striker upfront
Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Shaw, Carrick, McNair, Valencia; Blind, Fellaini; di Maria, Rooney, Januzaj; van Persie
Crystal Palace are in a slump of their own having undergone a four match winless streak, the most recent of which was their 1-3 loss to Sunderland on Monday evening. Neil Warnock will be without his captain Mile Jeidnak who was sent off in that game. Manchester United loanee Wilfried Zaha would also be unavailable for selection as he is ineligible to play against his parent club. James McArthur and Jason Puncheon are widely expected to replace the two players respectively. Damien Delaney is also back from his suspension and should slot right back into his regular central defensive position alongside Scott Dann. Stuart O’Keefe is still out with an injury and Yannick Bolasie and Joe Ledley are expected to complete the conventional four man midfield. Joint top goal scorers (with 3 goals a piece) Marouanne Chamakh and Fraizer Campbell will take up the mantle at the top of the formation.
Predicted XI (4-4-1-1): Speroni; Ward, Delaney, Dann, Kelly; Bolasie, McArthur, Ledley, Puncheon; Chamakh; Campbell
Key Match Facts
- Crystal Palace have not won a league game at Old Trafford since December 1989.
- Crystal Palace have scored a higher proportion of goals from set pieces than any other team in the BPL (57%), a fact that should worry Manchester United given their poor defending from set pieces this season.
- Both meetings in the Premier League last season saw van Persie open the scoring and Rooney net a second for United in 2-0 victories.
Manchester United 2 – 1 Crystal Palace
Manchester United need a win desperately not only to calm themselves but also to stay within sight of the top 4. They already trail fourth placed Arsenal by 4 points and would want to shorten this gap as much and as quickly as possible. Crystal Palace in 17th place are just above the relegation zone and any points from the game would help tremendously in their fight for survival in the top flight. The hosts however would have the upper hand. United have had a good run in home games this season and their much superior firepower upfront should be expected to overpower the visitors’ defense and bag United the full complement of 3 points from the game.
Player to watch out for:
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Rooney spent a very frustrating 3 games watching from the stands thanks to his suspension from a straight red. These games included the home game against Chelsea. Though the captain returned for the Manchester Derby, he was not able to influence the game much as for more than half the game he was needed to track back and rescue the shaky defense. Defensively United are no better in this game but at least they would have 11 men on the field as opposed to against City. Add to that the fact that Rooney is a naturally attacking player and it is not possible to keep him away from goals for far too long. Rooney has goalless for quite a few games now and it seems to be the perfect game to bring back his goal scoring form playing the 17th ranked side in the Premier League currently at home.
Blast from the past
The 1990 FA Cup Final is one of the classic fixtures that involved both these teams. The closely contested match at Wembley finished 3-3 after extra time. Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes (2) scored for United while Gary O’Reilly and Ian Wright (2) netted the goals for Crystal Palace. Lee Martin’s solitary goal in the replay won Manchester United the trophy.