Manchester United return to Old Trafford this weekend as the Red Devils host Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon. After two tough games to start the season, Man United will look forward to taking on a side that is simply fighting to avoid relegation.
They can’t afford to take the Eagles lightly, however, as Palace have pulled off a number of shocking upsets during their time in the Premier League, which means this upcoming fixture is set to be an exciting one.
United weren’t able to pick up all three points last time out to the chagrin of some fans, but they still managed to secure a solid result on the night. Closing matchweek two this past Monday, the Redstravelled to the Molineux Stadium to take on Wolves.
They were the better of the two sides to start the contest, and grabbed a deserved goal at the half-hour mark. Luke Shaw found Marcus Rashford, who slipped Anthony Martial in behind. The Frenchman made no mistake with the finish, smashing a shot past Rui Patricio to give United the lead.
Wolves responded well to start the second half, and eventually snatched an equalizer. A clever set-piece routine created space for Ruben Neves on the edge of the area, and the midfielder took a touch before curling one off the underside of the bar and into the back of the net.
The Red Devils were gifted a great chance to retake the lead roughly ten minutes later when Paul Pogba was taken down in the area, but the Frenchman's resulting penalty was saved by Patricio.
That would prove to be the last chance of the game for either side, as both ended up happy enough to settle for a point on the night.
Palace fans were left very disappointed with the team's performance in their last game, as the Eagles fell to newly-promoted Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. It was far from the most exciting game on the pitch, but it certainly meant a lot for two teams that will likely be fighting for survival come the end of the season.
It would be the Blades who did enough on the day to grab all three points, scoring the only goal of the contest at the start of the second half through John Lundstram.
The Eagles were flightless offensively, failing to create anything going forward. That was mostly due to Wilfried Zaha, as the Palace star is still clearly frustrated by the clubs refusal to sell him this past summer.
Last time out
These two last faced off at Selhurst Park in February, when United were flying high under then-interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
It took a half-hour, but United would take the lead as many had expected. Luke Shaw went on a mazy run forward before finding Romelu Lukaku at the edge of the penalty area, and the Belgian did well to turn and curl a shot into the bottom corner with his weaker right foot.
It would be two for both United and Lukaku less than ten minutes into the second half, as the striker reacted quickest to a poorly cleared corner, smashing the ball into the roof of the net from a few yards out.
Palace would get back into the game at the hour mark, however, as a superb cross from Jeffrey Schlupp was headed home by a diving Joel Ward.
The Red Devils would eventually put the game to bed with little time remaining, as Ashley Young rifled a low shot past the keeper to secure the three points on the day, continuing Solskjaer's win streak in the process.
The good news for United is that there are no fresh injury concerns to worry about. The bad news is that no one that was previously injured will be able to return to the team in time for the game.
Alexis Sanchez has featured in a few friendlies played behind closed doors, so he’ll be available for selection once he’s back up to match fitness. Meanwhile, Eric Bailly and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are still out for the foreseeable future.
It’s a similar story for Palace, who are dealing with a few injuries of their own. James Tompkins has yet to return following groin surgery, while Mamadou Sakho hasn’t recovered from a knee injury he suffered at the end of last season. It’s only two players missing, but the Eagles will be concerned with the fact that both of them are centre-backs.
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Andreas, McTominay, Pogba, James, Martial, Rashford
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, Cahill, Dann, Van Aanholt, Townsend, McArthur, Milivojevic, Meyer, Benteke, Zaha
What to watch for
An even more youthful United?
Solskjaer promised United fans that they would see plenty of youth getting a chance this season, and Saturday afternoon could be the first real example of this.
The most likely candidate to play a part seems to be Angel Gomes, who could get the start at the attacking midfielder position. Jesse Lingard featured in that role versus Wolves, but was quite dreadful, and showed he’s lacking the ability in the final third to do the job properly. Gomes showed plenty of promise in pre-season, and could finally get to shine on the brightest stage.
Mason Greenwood could also feature more than he has so far this season. The Englishman has come on as a sub in both games of the campaign, but has only played about 15 minutes. That should change against Palace, especially if United managed to fall behind in the contest.
The away side will look to sit back and absorb pressure, limiting space for Daniel James to run into. Putting in Greenwood instead would help United, as he excels at finding space in tight quarters and finishing off chances quickly.
Even the likes of Tahith Chong and James Garner could find themselves on the pitch against Palace if things go well.
There’s nothing those at Old Trafford love more than an academy player performing for United, and there’s reason to believe they’ll see some of that against Palace on Saturday.