Key Battles: Mitchell and Willock to have big tests on debut, as Bailly plays his final game of his season

Manchester United’s last domestic game of the season takes place on Sunday, when Crystal Palace visit Old Trafford. Sam Allardyce has now kept the Eagles up following a victory over Hull last weekend and brings his team to Manchester for a dead rubber on the final day. But as José Mourinho hinted in his post Southampton press conference, this meaningless game gives him the chance to give some young players first team minutes. While also allowing those, who will play in the Europa League Final to rest, before the biggest game of the season in Stockholm. So here are the three key battles to look out for when Manchester United face Crystal Palace in the final league game of the season at Old Trafford on Sunday:



Demetri Mitchell -v- Wilfried Zaha

On his first senior competitive game anywhere (he has not even been out on loan to a lower league club) Demetri Mitchell will take on one of the best wingers in the Premier League this season. Mitchell has flourished for Nicky Butt’s U23’s team this season in a new role of left back. Having started the season a forward, Mitchell has helped out by appearing up on the wing for Butt’s striker-less team before being converted into a defender. However, the Englishman will need to call up on all his newfound experience to cope with Wilfried Zaha on Sunday. The Ivorian winger has been a star man for Palace, scoring seven and assisting nine of the Eagles’ 39 goals this campaign. His excellent and much more consistent performances have led him to becoming Palace’s player of the season. Zaha who has been playing a right-wing role since Andros Townsend returned to favour, will come to Old Trafford looking to take on Mitchell at every opportunity. The Ex-United man has averaged 4.12 dribbles per game this season. Zaha is a much better player now than he was during his brief spell in Manchester, with some United fans now disappointed the club let the Ivory Coast international go so cheaply.



Matty Willock -v- Jason Puncheon

Another expected debutant, Matty Willock is a central midfielder who was on the bench recently for the home draw with West Brom. Like Mitchell, this will be his first ever senior game at any level and it should prove a great experience for him to start at Old Trafford in front of 75,000 fans. But, if he plays in a more defensive midfield role, Willock will be up against Palace fan favourite Jason Puncheon. Having scored the opening goal in the FA Cup Final against United last year, Puncheon has been a starting Premier League player at Southampton and now Palace for five seasons now and is sure to give Willock a big test on his first competitive start for Manchester United.



Eric Bailly -v- Christian Benteke

The Europa League starters will not play so due to his Europa League Final suspension Eric Bailly is the only guaranteed senior starter, injury permitting. The Ivorian centre-back has had a great season, contributing well to help United record the second-best defensive record in the Premier League. Bailly will need to call on all his physical prowess when he faces Christian Benteke however. The Belgian is Palace’s top scorer this season with fifteen goals and is a key reason why the Eagles will still be in the Premier League next season.

Written by Ben Lyons


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