Manchester United will start the 2020/21 Premier League season against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday evening. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side should have started at Turf Moor against Burnley last weekend but both United and Manchester City has their opening matches postponed due to their participation in the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League respectively. United have played just one pre-season match this summer, losing to Aston Villa at Villa Park last Saturday.
That said, United’s players should still be fresh from their European endeavours and playing for their countries during the international break, which came before the season actually started. Roy Hodgson’s side have played two competitive matches already this season, added to four pre-season matches whilst United were still playing in Europe. This will be an important match for United as they lost this fixture last season and will be seeking to start the 2020/21 season well.
This summer, there was so much promise that United could partake in the summer transfer market, continuing their rebuild. However, the club is currently failing to bring in more than one new signing so far this summer; Donny van de Beek from Ajax. Solskjaer’s side have been linked with Jadon Sancho all summer, but that prospective deal is something that has not really developed since the 10 August deadline expired. United recently missed out on Sergio Reguilon, who will be signing for Tottenham Hotspur.
How United have faired against Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
United and Palace have met 22 times in the Premier League; United have won 17 times, drawn four times and were beaten just once. In terms of goals scored, United have 43 compared to Palace’s 10 with United winning four penalties and scoring three – Palace have not won a penalty against United in the Premier League. United have kept 15 clean sheets with Palace keeping three. Discipline has been an issue with United receiving 31 yellow card and one red card with Palace receiving 36 yellow cards and two red.
Last season, in this fixture at Old Trafford, United lost their first match against Palace in the Premier League. Jordan Ayew opened the scoring in the 32nd minute of the match with Daniel James equalising in the 89th minute. Patrick van Aanholt scored the winner three minutes into added time. At Selhurst Park, United were the victors with Marcus Rashford opening the scoring in added time at the end of the first half with Anthony Martial doubling United’s lead in the 78th minute of the match.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Crystal Palace in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Saturday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
It is safe to say that David De Gea did not have the best season for United last season. He made many mistakes and took a hit in terms of confidence. His ability might still be there and he will need to ensure that it comes back through. In the past seven seasons, De Gea has won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award four times so we have seen the best of what he can do. I believe the player has the drive, determination and desire to keep moving forward and after each mistake, he look distraught, which suggests he knew that he could do better.
The challenge of Dean Henderson to rival De Gea for the number one shirt at the club could be the best thing for both goalkeepers, taking the reliance off one goalkeeper and giving both a fair share of matches until Henderson has the confidence in himself and the confidence of his manager, coaches and teammates to perform like a United goalkeeper should be performing. De Gea should start against Palace. Henderson could well play against Luton Town in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday evening, which would be a good match for him to start building his confidence at the club.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence needs some strengthening but that might not happen this summer. At left-back, with Luke Shaw’s injury record, the clubs tends to go long periods relying on a player who does not have much experience. This has happened at the club for a number of years. Brandon Williams has done well but needs more development before he can be considered as a starting player in a fullback position. The defence improved last season after the arrival of both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire for around £125 million, which helped defensively, although there is still more to do.
United conceded 54 goals in the 2018/19 Premier League season, reducing that to 36 last season, which can only be considered an achievement, also seeing United as the third best defence in the league behind Liverpool (first) and Manchester City (second). Against Palace, I expect Wan-Bissaka and Shaw in the fullback positions and Victor Lindelof and Maguire as the central defensive partnership. The future of Teden Mengi is going to be an exciting one though, and Solskjaer will need to find a solution for Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo – who should all be leaving the club.
Midfield Three: Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes
United pulled a blinder with the midfield in January by signing Bruno Fernandes, who was one of the main catalysts to the clubs drive in the Premier League which saw them finish third, overcoming a 14 point deficit with Leicester City and finishing four points ahead of them, cementing their third-place finish with a 2-0 victory on the final day of the season. Fernandes achieved 12 goals and eight assists in 22 appearances for United, managing 49 goal contributions in 50 appearances including his stats from Sporting Clube de Portugal.
This summer, Solskjaer signed Donny van de Beek, who is another player who will compliment the midfield and give United better options when trying to break teams that stay behind the ball down – something United struggled to do at times last season. Against Palace, United will be seeking to start their season with a victory and continue building, despite the negativity surrounding the club because of the lack of transfer activity this summer. Fernandes, Van de Beek and Nemanja Matic should start in a midfield three, with Paul Pogba lacking fitness because he had to self isolate after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Forward Three: Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford
The trio have not played this summer so may not be fully match fit, but saying that, they have not had three months on the sidelines after the season, having about a month – although the international break saw both Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood get some minutes on the pitch, before Greenwood was sent home, anyway. The trio of Marcus Rashford, Martial and Greenwood contributed a total of 63 goals and 28 assists – a total of 91 goal contributions for the club last season. This puts them in the position that they are United’s hope this season.
Unless the club makes any signings in the final few weeks of the summer transfer window. Greenwood has something to prove this season, after his antics in Iceland and he will probably be more determined than ever to hit the ground running and cause the negativity surrounding him to disperse into a cloud of positivity that would be achieved with goals and assists as regularly as possible this season. Martial will be under pressure to keep his current form, building upon it in every match and Rashford will be tasked with finding his form pre-back injury and restoring that, ensuring that United’s front three will be firing the club to glory.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Brandon Williams, Teden Mengi; Fred, Daniel James, Scott McTominay; Odion Ighalo
United will have just three substitutes again this season, which will make things that little but more difficult after becoming reliant on five substitutes after the Premier League restart because of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. It will need to happen as things start to return to normalcy, well hopefully they do and supporters will be back in the stadiums in full force against in the not too distant future. Dean Henderson will be the substitute goalkeeper for this game, probably getting his start against Luton in the Carabao Cup next week.
Defensively, Teden Mengi and Brandon Williams could be called upon, although Tim Fosu-Mensah and Eric Bailly could be called upon instead. In midfield, Fred and Scott McTominay could do a job with Daniel James in the wide areas, should an injection of pace be needed at some stage late in the match. The only main attacking player on the bench will be Odion Ighalo, who did well at the start of his United career, but seems to have gone off the boil during the latter stages of last season, needing to find his form himself. United could do with at least one attacking player coming in this summer.
Written by John Walker