Manchester United will face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Wednesday evening – a match which was due to be played back in September but it was postponed because of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. United were set to have just over a week off before this match was scheduled in by the Premier League. It will now be the halfway point of the season in the Premier League for both clubs. United have added three more fixtures to their season in the past week.
Erik ten Hag’s side beat Manchester City 2-1 in the second Manchester derby of the season, which kept the spirits high after a good run of form in all competitions since the resumption of the season following the FIFA World Cup. United will face Arsenal on Sunday in the Premier League – still being the only team to have beat the Premier League leaders this season. Palace will be seeking to better their league position knowing they beat United last season.
Palace were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea on Sunday, which gives them one win in their last six matches and with United’s form much better than theirs, it puts United in contention for another victory at Selhurst Park. Of course, Palace could make this match difficult for United but with 11 goals conceded in their last six matches in all competitions and the fact United have scored 15, conceding just three, it makes it even worse for Palace.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw;
Antony, Fernandes, Rashford;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea has been a positive goalkeeper in the last few matches for United. The Spanish goalkeeper has made some excellent saves against both Everton and Manchester City in his last two appearances, sitting out the 3-0 victory over Charlton Athletic with Tom Heaton keeping his first clean sheet for United. De Gea is reportedly negotiating a new contract on lesser terms at United and is seemingly desperate to remain at the club, which is a good thing.
It was expected that Jack Butland would make his debut for United in the Carabao Cup against Charlton, but he missed out completely with De Gea named on the bench. Butland will not be available to face Palace either due to him not being allowed to play against his parent club, Palace. After this match, United face Arsenal in the Premier League then face Nottingham Forest, Reading and Forest again in the cup competitions.
After the Carabao Cup semi final first and second legs against Palace and the Emirates FA Cup fourth round against Reading, United will face Palace again in the Premier League, at the Theatre of Dreams, so Butland, unless he makes his debut against Forest or Reading, may have to wait until United face Leeds at Elland Road on the 12 February – it is unlikely that he will face Barcelona in the UEFA Europa League. De Gea has a good run ahead of him.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw
United’s defence have improved massively in the last two seasons. The arrivals of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez plus the rise of Luke Shaw’s form, not to mention the form of Diogo Dalot and more recently, that of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, United seem to be in good hands with Erik ten Hag. Casemiro’s arrival has helped the defence too with him being the best defensive minded midfielder since the likes of Michael Carrick and Roy Keane.
It looks like Wan-Bissaka could start in the right-back role against Palace with Dalot possibly needing some time to recover from the injury that saw him come off after 34 minutes against Charlton in the quarter final of the Carabao Cup last week. Perhaps Dalot could be fit for the Arsenal match? Shaw should return to his left-back role against Palace as it is not really a match to keep him in the centre of defence with Martinez needing minutes to regain his match fitness.
In the centre of the defence should see both Varane and Martinez partnering just to get United to the point where they are one or two goals up in the match, which could then see the likes of Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Tyrell Malacia coming on to see the game out. Ten Hag has some good rotational options in the defence this season, which is a good thing for United. The more this squad are used, the better things could be for United.
Midfield: Casemiro, Eriksen
United’s midfield is great this season. The signings of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen in the summer have been a revelation for this midfield. The duo have made a solid partnership in the midfield which has really helped both the defence and the attack. The only problem for Casemiro is the fact that if he gets booked again in the Premier League, he will miss the clash with Arsenal on Sunday as the five bookings rule continues until the 19th match of the season.
Eriksen is such a talented footballer, which has been seen in stages this season, especially with his eight assists and two goals for the club this season. To have ten goal involvements, at his age, after what he has been through in the last two years is admirable. It is almost like nothing ever happened to him. His partnership with Casemiro is brilliant. The Brazilian has two goals and four assists this season. It is possible that Casemiro could be rested for this match.
Fred is an option to bring into the midfield to partner Eriksen, but Fred has the same problem as Casemiro – another yellow card and he too misses the Arsenal match. The safe option would be for Scott McTominay to face Palace, which is plausible alongside Eriksen, but perhaps not the best option. With Newcastle United interested in the Scotland international, his omission could indicate whether United could sell him. Zidane Iqbal or Kobbie Mainoo are options too.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Rashford
This area of the 4-2-3-1 formation is perhaps where the goals are this season. Antony has five goals to his name, Bruno Fernandes has four goals and four assists and Marcus Rashford has 16 goals and five assists. That is 25 goals and nine assists – 34 goal contributions across this three-man attacking midfield which may not be the best in the Premier League but it is not one of the worst. United have some talented players in these positions.
Antony could start on the right with Jadon Sancho still out of the squad for the immediate future. The Brazilian has had a good season so far by scoring five goals but he needs to continue his performances once he has scored, which seem to die off a little afterwards. Getting the best of him will be important for Ten Hag – but he was bought at the price for the player he could become, not the player he is now. But the ABUs will deduct that from their mocking.
Fernandes is a player raising his form, which is also a good thing. Post-Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernandes is a much better player. He is, however, a long way off the kind of form he showed three years ago when he arrived at United. He scored against City at the weekend though, so that will be a boost for him. The man of the moment though is still Marcus Rashford. He got his 16th goal of the season against City and will be seeking to perform once again, if fit.
Wout Weghorst arrived at the Old Trafford club at the weekend. It is great that Ten Hag managed to get a striker in this month, which will aid United in their pursuit to achieving a top four finish in the Premier Legue this season. They are currently in third position in the league and will need to beat Palace to continue that ahead of the clash with Arsenal in the league on Sunday, which will be another must win match for United.
Weghorst has trained with his new teammates over the weekend and on Monday, so will be getting ready to his their ground running. Whilst at Besiktas, the Dutchman scored nine goals and four assists in all competitions, which is much better than what Anthony Martial has provided for United this season. The Frenchman could well start this match with Weghorst on the bench but he was replaced at half time in the derby on Saturday.
Weghorst may not be the best strike that United could have signed but in terms of tactics and ability, he will be a massive benefit to this United team, especially for his height – 6ft 6in. United have no tall players in the attacking areas this season and with what Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani had achieved previously, it shows that height is an advantage for strikers in the Premier League. The Palace match would be good for Weghorst to get involved.
Substitutes: Heaton; Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia; Fred, Pellistri, McTominay; Martial, Garnacho
Ten Hag will name his standard nine substitutes on the bench for United with the ability to use five of them throughout the match, as he has done in the last few matches at least. I would expect to see Tom Heaton on the bench in goal as Jack Butland is not eligible to face his parent club in the Premier League, so will have no involvement. It could be that Nathan Bishop gets on the bench though, depending on how fit Heaton is after facing Charlton last week.
In the defence, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Tyrell Malacia could all be available. Lindelof has not been involved on the pitch since the 3-0 victory over Bournemouth at the start of the month. Maguire also started against Bournemouth, also coming off the bench against City at the weekend. Malacia started against City at left-back with Shaw playing in the centre of the defence, which is not expected to be the case against Palace.
The midfield could see the likes of Fred, Facundo Pellistri and Scott McTominay available. Obviously, Ten Hag could keep Casemiro on the bench, to keep him for the Arsenal match with him one booking away from a suspension, which is the same for Fred. In attack, Anthony Martial and Alejandro Garnacho could both be available. If Martial starts, Weghorst will be on the bench but personally, I would like to see him start against Palace.
Written by John Walker