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Starting XI Prediction: Manchester United v Crystal Palace – Barclays Premier League 2015/16

Five matches to go and  five points to cover. Yes, the difference between Manchester United and Arsenal, and Manchester City, is only four points but due to the disappointing goal tally this season, United’s goal difference is far inferior to Arsenal and City. Can United make that leap? It looks difficult right now. It will not only need City or Arsenal to drop points on at least two occasions but also United to win all of their remaining games. Can they do it, yes, but will they do it practically thinking; well let’s say it will be utterly surprising if they do.

Louis van Gaal, on the back of the FA Cup quarter-final replay win would have expected a much better and effective performance from his team against Aston Villa. It, however, turned out to be another one of the 1-0 wins that United ground out. But more importantly, the Red Devils got their three points to keep some kind of pressure on the teams in third and fourth position. With Arsenal and City scheduled to play each other, United will have to keep themselves in the shouting distance in case either of those teams falter another time. But as said before this will only help if United win all their last five games. For this to happen, the team fielded on the day should be properly set up and the strategies need to work to the plan, if not plan A then plan B. Keeping this in mind let’s have a look at the predicted line up for this mid-week clash.

Starting XI (4-2-3-1):

Goalkeeper – David De Gea

The Spaniard did not have a lot to do against Villa but can expect a bit more attacks from Crystal Palace. However, with his caliber and quality, those should not be difficult to keep out, if the defenders do their jobs well.

Center Backs – Chris Smalling and Daley Blind

Van Gaal has made sure that his center back pairing remains as consistent as it can and hence have reaped its awards. Blind has emerged as a pretty good center back. With Smalling alongside both have had some really good games of late. They would like to keep their performances up there if they wish to help United win five on the trot.

Full Backs – Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson

With Fosu-Mensah rested for the last game he should be starting the game in order to get back into rhythm before the big semi-final on Saturday. He has been an excellent force on the right-hand side and it can be seen in the results as well. Another youngster who had impressed but went off the scene due to injury was Borthwick-Jackson. Before he went off injured he had some cracking games and have proven time and again how big a threat he is going forward without losing the positional awareness.

Central Midfield – Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera

With the manager confirming that Herrera is back in contention for the game, he might even start the game ahead of Marouane Fellaini. IT might just be more of wishful thinking but United have always looked better with Schneiderlin and Herrera than with Fellaini. It gives the team a point to move the game forward and in Schneiderlin a point to stop or interrupt any kind of attacks.

Number 10 – Wayne Rooney

With Rooney back in the side, he will most probably occupy the role behind the striker. Juan Mata was the one occupying the role before but with he England captain back from the injury, it might be difficult for Mata to get ahead in the pecking order. He started on the right-wing in the last game but looked pretty ineffective.

Forwards – Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial

With Mata’s uninspirational performance against Villa, Lingard might come back into the team considering his work rate and efforts while going back. The left-wing saw Memphis Depay against Villa, but he too had an ordinary game. He showed glimpses of what he can do when in full flow but only glimpses. Martial is usually much more effective on that left side and hence might be brought back keeping in mind the Semi Final on the weekend. Rashford is almost undroppable at the moment, with scoring at will. His has been an amazing story, from starting a game only because Martial injured himself during the warm-up to being the confirmed starter week in week out. United would need him to maintain his performance levels for the rest of the season if they wish to get anywhere near that top four spot.

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