Manchester United will welcome Crystal Palace to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon in the Premier League, which will also be the first time that Ralf Rangnick leads his club into a match. Since the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer back in November, Michael Carrick led United into two victories; 2-0 over Villarreal and 3-2 over Arsenal, also a 1-1 draw with Chelsea. Carrick ended his time with the club on Thursday evening after leading United to their first home win in the Premier League since the 4-1 victory over Newcastle United back in September. Rangnick will be seeking United to continue their good start to December.
Palace are not in great form, coming off two straight defeats in their last two matches but with their 3-1 victory in this fixture last season, they will be seeking to get a similar result against this United side who have come away from a bad period for the club. At the time of writing, United sit seventh in the Premier League table, three points off the top four and 12 points off the top spot – which is going to be a tough one for United to claw back, but stranger things have happened. United will need to win the majority of the matches played in December, which is a tough feat despite the level of the opposition they will face.
Previous meetings with Crystal Palace and their connections with Manchester United.
United and Palace have met a total of 24 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 17 times, drawn five times with Palace winning the remaining two matches. United have scored 44 goals, winning four penalties and scoring three of them. Palace have scored 13 goals, winning one penalties and scoring it. United have kept a total of 16 clean sheets with Palace keeping four. United players have been shown a total of 33 yellow cards and one red card in this fixture with Palace players shown a total of 38 yellow cards and two red cards. United need to ensure they can win matches like this, which have hurt them in the past.
There is not a lot of history between United and Palace in regards to players who have played for both clubs. Wilfried Zaha was Sir Alex Ferguson’s final signing as manager of the club in January 2013 and was loaned to Palace for the remainder of the 2012/13 season. He ended up making just four appearances for United failing to score a single goal for the club, ending up back at Palace in the summer of 2014. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was purchased from Palace in the summer of 2019 and Timothy Fosu-Mensah was once loaned to Palace, which was one of many bad loan spells for the player. Jeffrey Schlupp was once on trial at United, but not signed.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Crystal Palace in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea has been one of the best players for United this season. The saves that he has made have stopped United from being even more embarrassed than they already were. To have a goalkeeper like De Gea is something that many clubs around Europe would want and that is why he’s a great fit for United. Of course, at some point this season, Dean Henderson is going to want to challenge him, unless he goes out on loan next month, which is a distinct possibility. United have a great starting point to reaching the pinnacle of England and Europe again and with Rangnick at the helm, it looks even better for the future.
Against Arsenal, De Gea made some very important saves, which he also did against Chelsea and Villarreal in the last three matches. The form he is in right now, for me, makes him undroppable which is why he must keep his place in goal against Palace. Last seasons hurt against Palace is a great motivation factor for righting that wrong this season. Keeping on a winning run in December will be important with United also facing Young Boys, Norwich City, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Newcastle United and Burnley before the end of the month. It is important that both De Gea and United continue their good form until the end of the month.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles
It is important that United find their strongest defence this season. In the Premier League alone, the club has already conceded as many goals as they have scored – 24. It does not look all that good with more than half of the season still left to play. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw all missed the victory over Arsenal and with the form of some of the players who replaced them, those who are fit, which could be Wan-Bissaka and Shaw, should be left on the sidelines. Diogo Dalot played at right-back against Arsenal and despite a poor opening, he grew into the match. Alex Telles also did well with both getting forward to help attack.
Giving both Dalot and Telles another chance to start could be good for the squad, especially this month with many matches and the fact that Rangnick will need to rely on rotation with many injuries at this stage of the season. In the central defensive positions in a four-man defence, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire should continue to partner each other. Against Arsenal, Maguire rose to the challenge and had a very positive match. Lindelof played well too, even if his start was not the best. With Phil Jones back in the mix, albeit only being on the bench for the last two matches, he too could find some involvement this Festive period.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes
The midfield has been a problem area for United and there are some players who, despite being written off by supporters of the club, have continued to offer something good going forward. Nemanja Matic, despite his age, has been one of those players and will continue to be whenever he has been given a chance. He missed the Arsenal match through injury. Fred is the other. Just when you think his talent has waned, he manages to pull something out of the bag. Against Palace, I would keep both players on the bench as they will need to be fresh. It is possible that with the talent United have, they may be able to rest, or play just a small role in this match.
Scott McTominay should start as the defensive-minded midfielder agains Palace. The Scotland international is committed to the cause and will do what he needs to help the club move forward. It is no big surprise that he was a favourite of both Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and could once again win an admirer in Ralf Rangnick. Donny van de Beek should start this match – he is a positive player and knows what it means to be successful. Playing hims could save United lots of money in the future. Bruno Fernandes is the other players that should start in this midfield three. His five goals and nine assist show what he can do at the club.
Forward: Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford
United’s attack is perhaps the strongest area on the pitch for the club. It would be great if this wealth of talent was available in the midfield and the defence too. Jadon Sancho is a player that should retain his place in the right-wing position, despite swapping with Marcus Rashford in the last few matches, they have both had some positive actions playing on the opposite flanks. Rashford should start on the left-wing, a position that he has been successful in over the past few seasons and where he will be successful again. The duo have five goals and one assist between them this season, which is a good building point for them.
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the first names on the team sheet this season, scoring 12 goals and two assists so far, which at 36 years or age is admirable. Some say Ronaldo is a problem at United but these are people seeking a problem that they will not find, through a lack of knowledge or just jealousy. Against Arsenal, the Portuguese superstar made 27 pressures which shows just what he does for the club. Granted, his form has not always been as good but United were not performing either, so in the coming weeks and months, a different Ronaldo could show himself rather than the one the media, pundits and whoever criticise.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Jesse Lingard, Fred, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood
Rangnick will be able to name a total of nine players on the bench against Palace on Sunday. He will need to ensure that he has enough players on the bench to bring on to change the game, if that’s what needs to happen. I would expect Dean Henderson to remain on the bench into this match. De Gea’s form has made him undroppable but there will become a time when Henderson can challenge and there are a few matches where that could happen in the coming weeks, giving De Gea a break to recharge his batteries for the tough months ahead. I am sure that Rangnick will have thought about this and who he intends his number one to be.
In defence, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones could both be available along with Aaron Wan-Bissaka. I would expect Luke Shaw to miss out again following his head injury. It is better to be safe than sorry when injuries come into the fray – as well United have found out over the years. In midfield, Jesse Lingard, Fred and Nemanja Matic could all be called upon if needed. The trio will have what is needed to come on and help change, with all three having different attributes. In attack, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood could be available. It is expected that Edinson Cavani will be missing at least until next weekend against Norwich City.
Written by John Walker