Manchester United return to Premier League action this Saturday, a week later than most following their Europa League exploits last month where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men suffered a narrow 2-1 semi-final defeat to eventual winners Sevilla.
In the League, however, Utd are unbeaten in 14, last tasting defeat all the way back in January. While the Red Devils finished strongly post-lockdown to secure 3rd spot, signs of fatigue and a lack of strength in depth started to creep in – with draws to Southampton, West Ham and an FA Cup Semi-Final defeat to Chelsea clear evidence of this.
While Solskjaer has reinforced his options in midfield with the arrival of Donny van de Beek, this window has been largely frustrating thus far. The squad still needs quality additions in defence and attack and the Jadon Sancho saga looks like it is set to rumble on right until the window shuts.
Palace, on the other hand, have renewed optimism for the campaign ahead after their summer spending. The Eagles fought off stiff competition to secure the signature of highly-rated Eberechi Eze. The 22-year-old had a breakthrough season in the Championship last year with QPR and is one of the most enjoyable players to watch when he has the ball at his feet committing defenders. Michy Batshuayi has also returned for another loan spell, and another Championship star Said Benrahma looks like he could join from Brentford too.
Looking ahead to the match itself, United’s deep run in Europe has resulted in a completely disjointed pre-season. Many players have only returned to training this week and there are question marks surrounding the fitness of several key players, including Paul Pogba who recently tested positive for Covid-19. Last weekend saw a weakened side play out a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa in their only warm-up game.
Palace surprised many in their opening day win against Southampton. While Vicente Guaita was called upon to make two fine saves in the second-half half, Palace set themselves up perfectly and limited the Saints to few other clear chances.
For my first selection, I like the look of Under 2.5 goals. United’s lack of pre-season and time on the training pitch could see them spend the First Half shaking off some rust. Roy Hodgson’s men will look to sit in, with two banks of four denying central space for key man Bruno Fernandes.
Mason Greenwood’s recent off-field issues have been another unwelcome distraction for Solskjaer ahead of the weekend’s opener. The youngster has mostly trained on his own following his breach of Covid-19 protocols while away with England. Despite these distractions, I expect him to start here and let his actions on the pitch make the headlines.
While I do expect Palace to sit in and soak up as much as they can, they proved last weekend how dangerous they can be on the break. In Wilfried Zaha and Eberechi Eze they have two foul magnets. Last year Zaha completed 4.3 successful dribbles per game, being fouled 3.2 times per game while Eze completed three successful dribbles per game, being fouled 2.3 times per game. Ex-Palace man Aaron Wan-Bissaka might be having a sleepless night at thoughts of these two coming down his wing. Wan-Bissaka picked up a Yellow Card in each of the two league meetings between the sides last year.
Manchester United v Crystal Palace Same Game Multi
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