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Four Players to Watch: Was selling Wilfried Zaha a mistake?

Manchester United’s final Premier League match will be against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, in a match that couldn’t have the word draw written on it in clearer letters. Palace, clear from relegation and nowhere near the European positions, have nothing to play for, and neither do United, as the Red Devils are confirmed to finish in sixth place and need to be prepared for a European final that edges closer. I can’t wait.

Unfortunately, though, before Stockholm, the United faithful will need to watch another meaningless, monotonous match. While Jose Mourinho has confirmed an extensive list of youth debutants who will be introduced to the side for this match, it’s hardly a spectacle. That’s why I’ve taken the liberty of breaking down the four players you need to keep your eye on this Sunday.

Christian Benteke, Striker, Crystal Palace

After an expensive move from Liverpool, Palace’s Christian Benteke struggled to hit the ground running, or seemingly, at least, because his goal tally has kept Palace in the Premier League. Benteke’s 15 goals from 35 starts are clear enough statistics to award the target man the title of “Palace’s attacking outlet”, in a very similar fashion to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Benteke’s pace and aerial prowess play an important part in Palace’s overall game, as their default tactic is quick counter-attacks on the wings before a cross into the middle to try and catch the defence off guard. Benteke has a limited all round skill set, but he works hard for his side to get into good positions and has been rewarded for it this season.

He’ll be decent practice for the potential threat of Ajax’s teenaged wunderkind Kasper Dolberg.

Wilfried Zaha, Winger, Crystal Palace

Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson signed Wilfried Zaha, firing in the Championship for Palace at the time, for £15 million, in a move that stands as one of the worst percentage sales at the club in a while. However, Zaha has brought David Moyes’ decision to end his career at United into question, as the winger has had an excellent season in the Premier League.

Direct, incisive, adept with both feet and able to cross or strike a football, Zaha had nine goals and eight assists in the Premier League this season, along with his average of 4.1 dribbles per game and being fouled 3.3 times, which creates valuable set-piece opportunities for Sam Allardyce’s men. He’ll have something to prove at Old Trafford, and he won’t hold back.

Joel Pereira, Goalkeeper, Manchester United

Jose Mourinho confirmed that Joel Pereira will be one of the youngsters involved in Sunday’s fixture, and with Sergio Romero slated to start the Europa League Final and Mourinho saying David de Gea is finished for the season, Pereira is the most likely to start. The Portuguese goalkeeper’s campaign has seen him move out on loan (to Portugal), make waves, and be recalled to replace Sam Johnstone (who went out on loan) as United’s third goalkeeper.

Debuting as a substitute in United’s FA Cup win over Wigan, Mourinho has claimed Pereira will be the best goalkeeper in the next generation of Portugal. Pereira could be in for trouble tomorrow with a weakened United side in front of him, and it will be very interesting to see how he copes.

Demetri Mitchell, Left-Back, Manchester United

An interesting case of a footballer can be found in United’s youth star Demetri Mitchell, who has played as a left-back in the reserves this season despite being a forward by trade and looked superb throughout. This meteoric rise has seen him included in the squad recently ahead of the other masses of youth talents set to debut.

Mitchell is supposed to be excellent moving forward, with good delivery, and he’s still improving defensively, which is why Mourinho may opt to play him further forward on Sunday. Nonetheless, he’s definitely a player to watch out for in positions that look weaker in United’s squad, as he will want a place in the senior squad eventually.

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