Manchester United-Crystal Palace Preview
Crystal Palace and Manchester United each enter Saturday’s clash at Selhurst Park looking to bounce back from embarrassing midweek losses.
Palace were thumped 5-1 at Manchester City in the round of 16 in the League Cup on Wednesday, while across town United were unceremoniously dumped out in the same round by Championship side Middlesbrough on penalties.
The Red Devils (6-2-2) are now winless in three following a 1-1 draw at CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, a 0-0 tie against arch rivals Manchester City last weekend and the scoreless 120 minutes against ‘Boro. After falling to MK Dons last season, manager Louis van Gaal was left ruing missed opportunities once more as his side exited the League Cup to a lower-tier opponent for the second consecutive season.
"They were lucky but of course you can force the luck," van Gaal said post-match. "We have created a lot of chances, especially in the second half and in extra time.
"We had chances from one metre, two metres in front of the goal. We have to finish those. In football it is always the goals that are counting and not the chances."
Palace (5-0-5) might be the right opponent at the right time for United, who have never lost a Premier League match to the London side (10-2-0) and have won four straight after doing the double last season.
Speaking after the League Cup defeat, Chris Smalling called on his teammates to focus on picking up three points at Palace.
"I think we’ll take the disappointment tonight but tomorrow we need to turn our attentions immediately to Saturday because it’s another big game, an away game, and we need a response from tonight." he told United’s official website.
Defender Luke Shaw remains out for United, who also have doubts over the fitness of midfielder Antonio Valencia and striker James Wilson.
Eagles manager Alan Pardew also bemoaned missed opportunities in the wake of his team’s League Cup exit despite the more definitive scoreline.
"Almost every time City had a chance they punished us, particularly in the first 60 minutes and that was very much the story," Pardew told the official club website.
"We had three or four good chances and it is not often that you get that so you have to take them and we were then vulnerable particularly when they go two ahead. We should have scored before they did and then at 2-0 had a great chance but we didn’t make the most of them."
Palace are hopeful forwards Marouane Chamakh (hamstring) and Connor Wickham (shin) will be available after they returned to training this week but the status of Pape Souare is less certain.
As always, the first goal of the game will be critical but perhaps more so for Palace. The Eagles have won all five Premier League matches in which they’ve scored first this season, but have lost all five when conceding first.
The Eagles have now gone 23 Premier League games without a draw dating back to February, winning 12 and losing 11.
United are tied with Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion for the most clean sheets so far this season with six.
Juan Mata was on target with the only goal of the game in the reverse fixture last season, securing a 1-0 win at Old Trafford with a 67th minute strike. In the corresponding fixture, Mata and Jason Puncheon traded goals before Marouane Fellaini scored the winner 12 minutes from time.
Palace’s last victory over United, ironically, was as a Championship side in a League Cup tie in November 2011 with a 2-1 win at Old Trafford.