On the back of a much needed three points against Tottenham at Old Trafford, Manchester United head to Selhurst Park looking to go on a run. Despite a difficult season to date, the Eagles have scored 10 in their last four games in the Premier League, so United will have to be solid at the back if they are to leave London with three points on Wednesday. It is at the back where many of United’s key battles in this fixture will take place; with Crystal Palace’s defensive frailties evident and United’s attacking prowess undoubted, successfully holding of Palace’s attacking threat will be United’s most pressing task on Wednesday.
Marcus Rojo vs Christian Benteke
Christian Benteke hasn’t represented a picture of consistency for Palace this season. However, of late the big Belgian seems to be finding his shooting boots, so to speak – scoring four goals in his last three league games. The Palace number 17 tends to bully his centre half into allowing him space in which to operate and this coupled with clever movement, tends to result in the former Liverpool man being allowed just that. It will be imperative to United’s hopes that Rojo doesn’t allow Benteke an inch, constantly snapping at his heels. Benteke fails to be effective for his side when defenders are touch tight with him, hence how he seems to thrive off of making a slog of his battles with a centre half, wearing him down to a point where space presents itself. This can be seen in that Benteke has scored six of his eight Premier League goals this term in the second half. Luckily for United, Rojo has been excellent of late, berating his opponent relentlessly, without rest bite, for 90 minutes. Hopefully for United, Rojo can continue in this vein.
Matteo Darmian vs Wilfried Zaha
With Antonio Valencia suspended it stands to reason that Darmian will move over to his more natural position on the right hand side with Blind stepping in at left back. Assuming the Italian international is Mourinho’s choice at right back on Wednesday, it will be crucial that he keeps Zaha under wraps. Since being shipped off by Louis van Gaal in 2014, Zaha seems to be growing week by week, with penetrative runs, rather than nonsensical trickery, becoming far more common place in his game. On the other hand, when on his natural side, it is hard to think of a better one on one full back than Matteo Darmian, so Wednesday will prove an intriguing battle between the two. Coming off of a fantastic performance at the weekend, former United man Zaha will be brimming with confidence to run at his full back and, despite his undoubted inconsistencies, there are few better in one on one situations than Zaha on his day. It will be Darmian’s responsibility to ensure that Wednesday is unequivocally not Zaha’s day.
Ander Herrera vs The Palace Midfield
Ander Herrera has been exemplary over the past few weeks and to pit him against just one of Palace’s midfielders would be to misunderstand Herrera’s game and brilliance in this United side. The recently capped Spaniard simply covers every blade of grass in the engine room and is often the spearhead of United’s pressing game, dragging his teammates with him. Don’t expect for a second that any of Palace’s midfielders will enjoy any period of time of the ball at Selhurst Park the 27-year-old hounding them for 90 minutes. Herrera is United’s lightweight warrior in midfield and continuation of his recent fine form in London on Wednesday will pit United in fine stead to come away with maximum points.