Manchester United will be looking to return to winning ways when they welcome Crystal Palace to Old Trafford on Saturday evening

English football is set to return to action this weekend after the international break, much to club football fans’ delight. One of the first matches on show on Gameweek 13 of the Premier League season will be played at Old Trafford on Saturday, with Manchester United playing hosts to Crystal Palace.

Manchester United showed some promising signs ahead of the final international break of 2018, notching up crucial wins over Bournemouth and Juventus. But, their momentum was halted to an extent in the last game they played, as Manchester City handed a 3-1 humbling to Jose Mourinho’s men in a largely one-sided affair.

Crystal Palace, on the other hand, are going through a disastrous run of form, having failed to win any of their last seven games across all competitions, and just one of their last nine. Seven of these winless results have been in the Premier League, as a result of which they have gone tumbling down the table – Roy Hodgson’s men are currently 16th, only outside the relegation zone due to a superior goal difference.

The corresponding fixture last season ended in a comfortable 4-0 win for Manchester United, as Crystal Palace lost for the seventh successive time at the start of their league campaign. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester United

Manchester United will be eager to return to winning ways. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Manchester United will be eager to return to winning ways. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Perhaps for the first time this season, Jose Mourinho will be able to boast of a clean bill of health ahead of a fixture. As Crystal Palace pay his side a visit on Saturday, the Manchester United boss will be without just one first-team player, with Luke Shaw the only one who is unavailable.

The Englishman will not be a part of the matchday squad due to a suspension that was accrued after he accumulated five bookings. In his absence, Ashley Young could end up playing on the left side of the Manchester United defence, meaning the right-back slot will be up for grabs.

Antonio Valencia has seemed to be out of favour with Mourinho thus far, although the manager has hinted that the Manchester United captain will start on Saturday. Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof should comprise the central defensive partnership once again, with the latter fit and available despite initial concerns of a thigh injury.

Up ahead in midfield, the good news is that Paul Pogba is fit and available. So is Marouane Fellaini, who should have Pogba and Nemanja Matic for company in the middle of the park. Matic, in particular, needs to raise his performance levels, having been disappointing so far this term.

In attack, Anthony Martial is an automatic selection owing to his stunning form, while Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Alexis Sanchez are vying for the slot on the right flank. Both Lingard and Sanchez showed some promising signs during the international break, with the latter likely to start against Crystal Palace.

Upfront, with Romelu Lukaku fully fit, Marcus Rashford could have to be content with a place on the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): de Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Young; Fellaini, Matic, Pogba; Sanchez, Lukaku, Martial

United

Crystal Palace

Roy Hodgson has a few injury concerns to deal with ahead of the trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. On Saturday, the Crystal Palace boss could be without as many as seven first-team players due to various fitness problems.

Those who are certain to miss out are Scott Dann (match fitness) and Christian Benteke (knee), with the former likely to return next week. Hodgson is particularly sweating over the fitness of Wilfried Zaha (thigh), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (shoulder), Mamadou Sakho (back), James Tomkins (calf) and Connor Wickham (match fitness).

While Zaha is, hands down, the talisman for Crystal Palace, Wan-Bissaka, Sakho and Tomkins are three quarters of Crystal Palace’s back four. The quartet though, are likely to be fit and available, which will be huge news for Hodgson.

Zaha should thus, replace Jordan Ayew upfront in the Crystal Palace attack, with Andros Townsend giving him company. The duo will undoubtedly be the pivotal players for the Eagles, considering they will be the only realistic sources of a goal against Manchester United.

In the middle of the park, James McArthur, Luka Milivojevic, Cheikhou Kouyate and Max Meyer will form a narrow quartet, with the full-backs providing the width for the visitors. Meyer, in particular, will shoulder most of the creative responsibilities, while Milivojevic’s set-piece prowess will be crucial.

Patrick van Aanholt is an automatic selection at the back alongside Sakho, Tomkins and Wan-Bissaka, while Wayne Hennessey should be the man in goal for Crystal Palace.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt; McArthur, Kouyate, Milivojevic, Meyer; Zaha, Townsend

Crystal Palace

Key Stats

  • Manchester United have never lost in 18 Premier League matches against Crystal Palace, which is a competition record for a team against a single opponent. In fact, the Red Devils are unbeaten in 20 league meetings since a 3-0 away loss in May 1991 (W17 D3).
  • Manchester United will be hoping to avoid equalling a Premier League club record for conceding in a ninth straight game – Jose Mourinho’s men have kept only one league clean sheet this season, in their 2-0 win at Burnley in September.
  • Both of the Crystal Palace’s two Premier League wins this campaign have been in away fixtures, latterly by 1-0 at Huddersfield in September.
  • The Eagles have conceded the opening goal eight times – only Cardiff and Fulham have done so more often.
  • Anthony Martial could become just the fourth player to score in six successive Premier League matches for United, emulating Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Betting Odds

Favourable Bets

1. Manchester United to score in BOTH HALVES @ 2.20

2. Romelu Lukaku to score anytime @ 2.10

3. Under 3.5 Cards @ 1.57

4. Manchester United Clean Sheet – NO @ 1.72

Underdog Bets

1. Romelu Lukaku to score 2 or more @ 6.00

Player to Watch

Wilfried Zaha

Can Zaha inflict some damage to his former employers? (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Can Zaha inflict some damage to his former employers? (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Crystal Palace are in desperate need of a win, meaning the performance of the returning Wilfried Zaha will be extremely crucial. The Ivory Coast international is yet to score or provide an assist in any of his five Premier League appearances against his former club.

Taking that into stock, Saturday is the perfect opportunity to break his duck versus Manchester United. Andros Townsend has been the only positive for Crystal Palace lately, and if Zaha is able to rediscover his early season form, Palace might stand a slim chance of springing up a surprise at Old Trafford.

Prediction

Manchester United 3-0 Crystal Palace

Manchester United may have been hit and miss so far this season. But, their 3-1 humbling at the hands of Manchester City notwithstanding, the players have shown the willingness to fight for Jose Mourinho. And, with a fully fit squad at the manager’s disposal, this is the perfect opportunity to lay down the marker at long last.

Crystal Palace, on the other hand, have been pulled into the relegation scrap after a promising start to the season, with their struggles in front of goal pegging them back considerably. The Eagles’ inefficiency in the final third could aid David de Gea’s cause to keep a second clean sheet in the Premier League.

All things considered, Manchester United look primed for a victory, with the major bone of contention being whether they can keep a clean sheet or not. The Hard Tackle predicts de Gea to enjoy a shut out, with Jose Mourinho & co. coasting to a 3-0 win.

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