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Opposition Scouting: Palace to face the goals against Manchester United at Old Trafford

Well, where do I start? It’s no secret now that most of the Selhurst Park faithful have practically worn out the panic button this season and we now find ourselves in a cloud of delirious hysteria…and not the good kind. Six out of six of the first league games have ended in defeat for the Eagles without a single goal being registered. There is something morbidly impressive however with this stat is that now it sees us secure the ‘honour’ of the worst start to a top-flight season in recorded history.

Wow. On the flip side we are quietly progressing in the Carabao Cup, but boy oh boy would I swap that for league points. Little did we know just days before Christmas in 2015 when Chung Yong Lee hit an 88th-minute winner at Stoke to send us to fifth in the table and ignite ludicrous away end scenes, that this very moment would then see a catastrophic decline in league form. This of course was masked by us reaching Wembley for the 2016 FA Cup Final against our friends from the red side of Manchester, however, it was clearly going very wrong on the pitch in the league, woeful performances, no gusto on display.  Despite the hero status from his playing days, things went very wrong for Alan Pardew. It would seem that the dressing room was completely lost.

Despite the hero status from his playing days, things went very wrong for Alan Pardew. It would seem that the dressing room was completely lost. Ok, they would have never had a full 90 mins maybe at that stage, but players such as Mile Jedinak and Glenn Murray were off-loaded by ‘Pards.’ So when we needed a character or someone to hold the ball up, or to just step up it wasn’t there. This didn’t sit well with the fans.

Pardew was shown the door days before Christmas last year and Big Sam was immediately brought in to do a job, a hell of a job. With Benteke proving to be a signing that was needed, it was also a big ask of the man to do the business up front. Ultimately he did deliver. It took a while for Sam to get things moving. A 4-0 loss at home to then-bottom of the table Sunderland within 38 minutes was a real low point. The month of April, however, would see us pick up unlikely, but thoroughly deserved wins against Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.

In these games, players such as Johan Cabaye and Andros Townsend suddenly seemed invigorated under Allardyce and could do no wrong, how bad must it have been under Pardew? Zaha would be terrorising the wings and the masterstroke of a loan signing that was Mamadou Sakho was the inspiration in the quest to stay up, organising the defence thus making Wayne Hennessy’s job between the sticks more comfortable and bringing the best out of him. We finished the season on a bit of a whimper but had done enough to stay up after a 4-0 home win against Hull in the penultimate game of the season. A trip to Old Trafford on the final game saw us bow out for the season with a 2-0 defeat. But we were safe and could relax…couldn’t we?

Less than two weeks later Big Sam left the club, albeit in sudden circumstances but the gist was ‘he’d done what he needed to do’. I for one was disappointed as that patch under Sam was enjoyable and memorable and we achieved some wonderful things in that short space of time. So I’ll always be grateful. For what seemed like an eternity (typical Palace pre-season fashion) Frank De Boer was appointed amongst much buzz, the first full-time foreign manager in our history, promises of ties with Ajax and a wealth of experience.

It certainly didn’t go unnoticed that spending in pre-season was eerily quiet and social media seemed to be all out panic on a daily basis, and rightly so. Rumours for weeks on end about Sakho signing permanently rumbled on. The big man did finally sign much to the fans delight but in leaving this so late cost us dear when the window shut. No new hungry keeper to keep Wayne on his toes and looking over his shoulder, and most concerning no striker or even strikers. It became apparent that we were going roll the dice with one, yep one recognised striker in Benteke, a lot of pressure, and also what if he was to be injured?

Also upsetting when you hear that highly rated striker Cenk Tosun was minutes away from signing from Besiktas on deadline day but we left it too late, it does rather make the blood boil. We have clearly suffered with Wilf Zaha on the treatment table for the past six weeks or so. So in hearing the news from last week’s game at the Etihad involving ‘Big Ben’s ligament damage and adding to the pot that fact we are losing for fun and can’t score for all its worth, it genuinely is a worrying time.

Anyway, Frank de Boer was shown the door after just four games failing to win, some agree with the decision some say should have given him more time. I’m with the latter, he wasn’t backed in the window and clearly wanted things done his way and to try new things. The whole pre-season and window for us was shambolic.

The Manager

Almost instantaneously Roy Hodgson is drafted in as his replacement. It’s clear this has already been in the pipeline for some time. Roy Hodgson the local chap who’d been given the poison chalice of South London. I do like Roy, and I want him to do well. But realistically this is a huge mountain to climb and I genuinely can’t see where the next win or goals are coming from. Also worth noting that the last 11 league games we’ve only registered four goals!

Domestically Hodgson has achieved a fair bit, mainly abroad and he is loved at Fulham, but in contrast, I know Liverpool fans might say otherwise. Hodgson’s management style may not be exhilarating (England) I really hope he cracks it and does just enough. But at present, it’s about getting Benteke and Zaha back to full fitness, so at least we have half a chance. He may have to gamble for this weekend’s match calling upon an U23 development player the bench is a big ask in itself for a game like this, let alone start the poor kids.

He may look at the likes of development players such as young Striker Freddy Ladapo or midfielders, Nya Kirby and Jason Lokilo to make the squad. Of course, first thoughts will be towards first teamers such as Townsend or Ruben Loftus-Cheek to mount an attack with Cabaye supplying or even Carabao Cup recent hotshot Bakary Sako for some ‘firepower’? Hodgson has Chelsea and then a trip to Newcastle after this weekend’s fixture so if the next few games won’t test his nerve, I don’t know what will.

Ones To Watch

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has by far shown the most promise in the centre of the park so far. Pace, tackling & simple passes. Also, he’s not afraid to take anyone on. Should Hodgson go with Cabaye and Luka Milivojevic then the potential for the three to work together could be worth a watch? I feel for the guy as it’s been tough but former Red Devils man Timothy Fosu-Mensah has shown class and dignity since the move to South London and still so young, hopefully, someone like Sakho can nurture him at the back and bring the best out of him. Of course not leaking goals at the back would be a start.

Starting XI

Prediction

Manchester United 3-1 Crystal Palace

With last weekend’s hammering at City still fresh in the mind, I cannot see past a defeat here at Old Trafford, despite that glorious night in November 2011 when Darren Ambrose scored ‘that’ goal and saw us through to the league cup Semi’s. Palace haven’t won a league game against Manchester United since the 1990/91 season when an Ian Wright goal along with two from John Salako sealed a memorable win in what is no doubt our finest season in a top flight, a third-place finish and a Wembley win in the legendary Zenith Data Systems Cup, halcyon days indeed. Joel Ward and Jason Puncheon have been dropped in recent weeks, so one of the other or both could make

Joel Ward and Jason Puncheon have been dropped in recent weeks, so one of the other or both could make the first team or a spot on the bench as Hodgson tries to get to grips with a style that (hopefully suits). The defence will still be smarting from last weekend so its backs to the wall time for the lads to try to minimise poor Hennessey from picking the ball out of the net. Hold the ball in the centre and just get forward and hold the ball up as much as we can aim to catch United on the break, won’t be easy. I’m going delusional optimism and say we’ll score this weekend.

However, I’m going to say a 3-1 win for United. If Roy happens to emulate a ‘spirit of the blitz’ mentality on Saturday and pull off the unimaginable then that may quell some of the cataclysmic fallout of recent weeks. We’ll see. Win or lose COYP!

Written by Clinton Davey

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