Manchester United will be aiming to seal a sixth-place finish in the Premier League when they lock horns with Crystal Palace on the last day of the season.

Manchester United will be hoping to end a wretched 2021/22 season on a high when they travel to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace on the final matchday of the campaign. With their sixth-place finish yet to be confirmed, the Red Devils need a victory against Patrick Vieira’s side on Sunday afternoon.

It has been a campaign to forget for Manchester United despite their exciting summer transfer business, which saw them recruit Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo. The team never got going under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and things have continued to fall apart during the reign of interim manager Ralf Rangnick. 

While Champions League football is off the table, Manchester United still have a chance to finish sixth and nail down a spot in the Europa League. Currently sixth, they have West Ham United just two points behind them and need a win to hold on to the spot. But after their 4-0 mauling at the hands of Brighton & Hove Albion, Crystal Palace will fancy their chances.

Crystal Palace have shown signs of early progress under Patrick Vieira, but a lack of consistency has held them back at times. The Eagles are currently 13th in the standings, three points shy of tenth-placed Brighton and are in with an outside chance of a top-half finish, although they need several results to go their way. 

However, the morale in the camp could be down after they yielded a two-goal lead, to get beaten by Everton earlier this week, following which Vieira was involved in some controversy after kicking down an offensive Everton fan. Palace will be eager to bounce back and give their fans something to cheer about in their last game of the campaign.

The reverse fixture, played in December last year, ended in a 1-0 victory for Manchester United, with Fred scoring the only goal of the game. Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday, which will see new Red Devils boss Erik ten Hag make an appearance in the stands, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Crystal Palace

Marc Guehi could miss out for Crystal Palace after picking up an ankle injury in the defeat against Everton. Apart from him, the Eagles continue to be without Michael Olise and Nathan Ferguson. Midfielder James McArthur is also a doubt for the contest due to an injury.

The Eagles will line up in their 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Vicente Guaita. Joachim Andersen and James Tomkins ought to pair up at the heart of the defence, flanked by the full-back duo of Nathaniel Clyne and Tyrick Mitchell. 

Cheikhou Kouyate could be asked to hold down the fort in the centre of the park, and keep a lid on Bruno Fernandes’ creative output in the afternoon. Conor Gallagher, who will be playing his last game for Palace before returning to Chelsea, should start after being benched last time out. The third slot in the centre of the park is likely to be taken up by Eberechi Eze, although Jeffrey Schlupp is also an option.

In attack, former Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha is a guaranteed starter on the left flank for Palace. Jean-Philippe Mateta should slot in as the centre-forward, with Jordan Ayew providing support from the right.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Guaita; Clyne, Andersen, Tomkins, Mitchell; Gallagher, Kouyate, Eze; Ayew, Mateta, Zaha

Manchester United

Jadon Sancho is a major doubt due to illness, while Paul Pogba is out with a calf injury. Luke Shaw has recovered to full fitness but could miss out after his wife gave birth to their second child. Cristiano Ronaldo is also set to miss out for Manchester United due to an injury, whereas youngster Alejandro Garnacho has also been ruled out.

Ralf Rangnick added that there could be more absentees for the visitors, but Phil Jones is fit and has travelled with the squad, while there is also a space for youngsters Shola Shoretire and Charlie Savage, who recently signed a new contract.

In what will be his final game in charge of the team, Rangnick is likely to persist with a 4-3-3 formation, with Dean Henderson likely to get a run-out between the sticks ahead of David de Gea. Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles pick themselves in the full-back slots, with Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane featuring in the middle of the park.

Fred, who scored in the reverse fixture, should start in the centre of the park, with Nemanja Matic playing the anchor role. Bruno Fernandes will carry the creative burden. He should have support from the departing Juan Mata, who has looked good in the last few games, while Anthony Elanga should slot in on the left. Marcus Rashford, who has recovered from an illness, should start as the No. 9.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Henderson; Dalot, Maguire, Varane, Telles; Fernandes, Matic, Fred; Mata, Rashford, Elanga

Key Stats

  • Manchester United have lost their last five away matches in the league, their worst such run since a six-game streak between December 1980 and March 1981. 
  • Crystal Palace have never lost when playing their final game of a top-flight season at home, winning six times and drawing three. 
  • Manchester United have won their final Premier League game 20 times, a joint high with Arsenal.
  • Crystal Palace have failed to win any of their 12 Premier League home games against Manchester United (D4, L8) – it is the most one team has hosted another in the division without winning.
  • Interim manager Ralf Rangnick will depart with the lowest Premier League win percentage of any Manchester United boss – before his final game he has won 43.5% of his fixtures (10 wins from 23).

Player to Watch

Marcus Rashford

Embed from Getty Images

Much like most of the squad, Manchester United academy graduate Marcus Rashford has had a torrid 2021/22 campaign. While injury held him back in the early parts of the season, the England international has never really got going and has struggled to hold down his place in the lineup due to poor displays one after the other.

Indeed, Rashford has accumulated a very poor tally of just five goals and two assists from 32 matches across all competitions. It has also led to question marks over his future at Old Trafford. With Erik ten Hag set to be in attendance on Sunday, it will be a chance for the 24-year-old to make an early impression on the new boss ahead of an uncertain summer.

Prediction

Crystal Palace 1-1 Manchester United

Crystal Palace are coming into the game on the back of a disappointing defeat in midweek and will be gunning to bounce back in front of their fans on the final day of the season.

Manchester United, too, will be aiming to get back to winning ways after the drubbing at the hands of Brighton & Hove Albion. With Erik ten Hag watching on from the stands, the players will want to put up a show for their incoming manager, which could lead to spring in their performance. But, with Cristiano Ronaldo likely to miss out, they will be without their biggest attacking threat.

Ralf Rangnick began his interim manager role at Manchester United with a win against Crystal Palace. However, he is unlikely to have the same joy as he prepares to sign off in his final game against the Eagles. The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

Leave A Comment...

*