Afternoon all! Sports Mole
's live Premier League coverage continues from Old Trafford as second-place Manchester United
welcome the league's bottom club Crystal Palace
. It is a very tough ask for pointless and goalless Palace this afternoon, and Jose Mourinho's Man United will be looking to move three points clear of rivals Manchester City at the top of the table. Stay tuned for the action!
Man United have never lost a Premier League match against Palace, with the Eagles winless against the Red Devils since May 1991. Palace did record a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford during the 2011-12 League Cup, but Man United have won eight of their last nine league meetings. Last term, Mourinho's side won 2-1 at Palace in December 2016, while they recorded a 2-0 victory over the London side on the final weekend of the 2017-18 campaign. The omens are not great for the visitors.
To suggest that Palace are the underdogs this afternoon would be a bit of an understatement. Right, without further ado, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news from Old Trafford. Palace have had a free week to prepare for this match, but Man United were in Champions League action in Russia against CSKA Moscow on Wednesday night. Any changes? Let's have a look...
UNITED: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Young; Matic, Fellaini; Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rashford; Lukaku
PALACE: Hennessey; Ward, Sakho, Delaney, Van Aanholt; Townsend, Milivojevic, Cabaye, Schlupp; Puncheon; Sako
Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Marouane Fellaini
, Juan Mata
and Marcus Rashford all return to the Man United XI this afternoon, with Daley Blind, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial dropping out. Leading scorer Romelu Lukaku
is in the team despite a slight concern over his fitness, while Chris Smalling keeps his position at the heart of the defence. Mourinho shuffles his pack!
As for Palace, Christian Benteke and Ruben Loftus-Cheek miss out through injury, while Timothy Fosu-Mensah is ineligible to face his parent club, which sees Joel Ward return to the team. Bakary Sakho is the player picked to lead the line in Benteke's absence as the Eagles go in search of their first league goal of the season. Jason Puncheon is also back to skipper the visitors this afternoon.
© Getty Images
So there we have it. The two teams are in, and we are now just about 40 minutes from kickoff on this mild afternoon in Manchester. I shall speak about Palace and their disastrous start to the campaign a bit later, but let's start with Man United, who have been very strong under Mourinho this term.
Indeed, five wins and a draw from six league matches have brought 16 points, which has left the Red Devils level with Man City at the top of the table. The Citizens currently lead the way on goal difference, but victory for Man United here would move them three points clear at the summit. Indeed, Man City are not in action until Saturday's late kickoff away to the champions Chelsea.
Mourinho's side opened their 2017-18 Premier League campaign with a 4-0 win over West Ham United, before beating Swansea City 4-0 one week later. Then came a 2-0 victory at home to Leicester City, but Man United did drop points on September 9 after a 2-2 draw away to Stoke City.
The 20-time English champions will enter this match off the back of successive league wins, however, having beaten Everton 4-0 and Southampton 1-0 in their last two. Man United also progressed in the EFL Cup courtesy of a 4-1 win over Burton Albion, and have won both of their Champions League Group A fixtures this season against Basel and CSKA Moscow.
Mourinho claimed ahead of this match that he was not too pleased with playing on Saturday after a fixture in Russia on Wednesday night, but the game was a walk in the park. Indeed, Lukaku scored twice, while Martial and Mkhitaryan were also on the scoresheet as Man United recorded a 4-1 victory away to CSKA Moscow. It was yet another fine performance from the Red Devils.
In terms of what is ahead for Man United, they have the small matter of a trip to Liverpool after the international break. They will then travel to Benfica in the Champions League, before hosting Huddersfield Town in the Premier League and travelling to Swansea in the EFL Cup. The month of October will end with a league game against Tottenham and Champions League clash with Benfica.
As for Palace, the Eagles will enter this match rock bottom of the Premier League table on zero points. They have not scored a single goal in their six league defeats this term, and have conceded 13 times. Dutchman Frank de Boer was sacked after a disastrous start to the campaign, but former England boss Roy Hodgson has not fared much better in the hotseat since arriving earlier this month.
Indeed, Hodgson's first game in charge of Palace brought a 1-0 home defeat to Southampton on September 16, before shipping five goals away to Man City last weekend. Palace have won twice in the EFL Cup this season, but they just cannot get going in the Premier League, and it does not get any easier as they face Man United here before hosting Chelsea after the international break.
Here we go then - both sets of players are in the tunnel ahead of kickoff at Old Trafford. No Martial for Man United this afternoon, with Rashford starting on the left. As for Palace, it is Sako through the middle in Benteke's absence, while Puncheon comes in for the injured Loftus-Cheek. Can Palace register their first league goal of the season this afternoon? Stay tuned to find out!
KICKOFF! Palace kick things off at Old Trafford...
... as expected, Man United are looking to get on the ball early on, with Palace setting up in a fairly defensive shape. You do get the feeling that the visitors will need to keep things tight in the first 10, 15 minutes if they are to stand a chance of picking up a positive result. Good atmosphere inside OT!
GOAL! Man United 1-0 Palace (Mata)
Man United take the lead in the third minute as Rashford races down the left before delivering a low cross into Mata, who finds the bottom corner! Stunning start from the home side here!
I said that Palace needed to keep it tight in the early stages, but they are already 1-0 down at Old Trafford, and it could well be a long afternoon. The visitors are dropping deeper and deeper, which is bad news. You have to fear for Hodgson's side if they concede another in the next few minutes.
Sako is doing his best to hold the ball for Palace, but the number 26 continues to be crowded out by Jones and Smalling. Ward does manage to deliver from the right, however, and actually wins a free kick after a late challenge from Young. The visitors have a set piece in a wide area here...
... CHANCE! Sakho heads Cabaye's free kick not too far wide!
Fellaini finds Mata inside the Palace box, and there is panic as the Eagles try to clear their lines. Fellaini goes down under pressure from Delaney, but the referee is not interested in the call.
Sakho has to clear a near-post cross from Lukaku, which threatened to find Rashford.
In fairness to Palace, they are attempting to commit players forward, but that is leaving space down the other end. Man United have a half-chance when Rashford finds Matic in a dangerous area, but the midfielder's effort was always curling over the crossbar. Still 1-0 to the Red Devils here.
Man United continue to work the ball into wide positions, with Young and Valencia so far forward. The latter delivers towards Lukaku, but Sakho does ever so well to make the headed clearance.
Palace are neat and tidy when they have possession of the football, but Man United have the look of a team that could score with each attack. Sako continues to run the line for the visitors, but the number 26 is not having too much joy against aggressive centre-backs Jones and Smalling.
The home side have not really created a chance of note since making the breakthrough in the third minute, and that is credit to Palace, who are trying to play football. The problem, however, is that they cannot seem to threaten down the other end. Still 1-0 Man United with 19 minutes on the clock.
Decent spell for Palace as they keep the ball inside Man United's half of the field, with Ward involved down the right. The Eagles are neat and tidy in the middle third of the pitch here.
It is very, very crowded in Palace's half of the field at the moment, which is making it difficult for the home side to create space. Lukaku wins another corner after a block from Sakho, but the Eagles manage to clear their lines. Not too many opportunities - even half-chances - since Mata's goal.
Sakho against Lukaku is a very interesting battle here. Both are seriously strong, and both are putting their bodies on the line. Lukaku has not really had a sniff in the opening 25 minutes, which is credit to the centre-back. Palace are playing quite well as the away side force another corner here.
Palace threaten with two corners in quick succession, but Man United clear their lines on both occasions, with Smalling winning two important headers. Palace are really going for it here.
Man United have a free kick in a wide area as Puncheon hands a Young free kick...
... Mata's delivery is straight into the arms of the Palace goalkeeper.
Smalling has been excellent at the heart of the Man United defence, with the centre-back winning a host of important headers. Palace just delivered their third corner of the match into the home side's box, but the danger was cleared once again. Nothing much from Mourinho's side at the moment.
Mourinho does not seem too pleased at the moment, and that is not much of a surprise. The home side might lead, but Palace have arguably been the better team in this first period.
Rashford looks to beat Hennessey to a through ball, but the Palace goalkeeper does well to make the clearance. The Man United supporters are attempting to raise their team here as Sako brings a save from De Gea. The home side really need to wake up as Palace continue to press forward.
Little over 10 minutes of the first period remaining, and the home side still lead 1-0 here.
GOAL! Man United 2-0 Palace (Fellaini)
Man United score their second of the match as Young delivers a stunning cross into the Palace box, and Fellaini is on hand to finish at the far post! That is a killer blow for the visitors here.
Little over five minutes of the first period remaining, and it is very difficult to imagine Palace coming back from this position. The visitors have been pretty good, but they are two goals behind here.
Just a reminder that Man United's next game is away to Liverpool after the international break - quite a big one! The Red Devils are well on their way to three points this afternoon as they search for a third before the interval. Defensively, Palace are all over the place at the moment here.
WIDE! Smalling heads a Mata corner just wide of the Palace post!
POST! Rashford hits the post from close range after Lukaku's header had fallen for the forward at the far post. United come close to making it 3-0 late in the first period.
HALF-TIME: Man United 2-0 Palace
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Man United leading Crystal Palace 2-0 courtesy of goals from Mata and Fellaini. Palace were actually quite good for long spells, but the Eagles are heading for their seventh straight defeat at the start of the 2017-18 Premier League season.
STATS! United dominated the first-half possession with 68% of the ball, while the hosts had 10 attempts in the first 45 minutes - three of which were on target. Palace, meanwhile, hit the target with one of their two attempts. No yellow cards to report - it has not been that type of match here.
BENCH WATCH! Palace do have attacking options on their bench this afternoon, with Ladapo, Lee and McArthur all available, but it is difficult to see many goals in that list of players. As for Man United, the home side have the likes of Martial, Lingard and Herrera on a strong bench at Old Trafford.
RESTART! Man United resume the action here...
... no changes from either side at the break, which is not too much of a surprise. However, I suspect that both managers will have alterations in mind as the second 45 minutes gathers pace here.
Rashford delivers into Lukaku at the near post, but Delaney makes a decent block to clear behind.
Rashford has a powerful strike blocked by Ward as the home side threaten once again.
GOAL! Man United 3-0 Palace (Fellaini)
Man United have their third of the afternoon as Rashford delivers a dangerous free kick into the Palace box, and Fellaini just nudges it with his head into the back of the net - two for him!
Lukaku has not really had too many sniffs of goal this afternoon, but you have to fancy the striker to get opportunities in the final stages of this match. Palace are just about surviving at the moment.
Fellaini is on for a hat-trick at Old Trafford this afternoon, which is not something that has been said too often. Palace look short of energy at the moment, and there is still a lot of football to play here.
Half-chance for Schlupp as the former Manchester United trialist finds some space in the middle of the Man United box, but his header was always wide of the post. Half-chance for the away side.
SAVE! Hennessey is down to keep out a strike from Young.
There is a bit of movement on the Palace bench here, which is not too much of a surprise. The visitors have 30 minutes to score their first Premier League goal of the 2017-18 campaign.
Half-chance for the home side as Lukaku breaks into a dangerous position before looking to find Rashford, but Delaney manages to make the clearance. Palace then break down the other end with Townsend, but his cross is too long. Lingard is preparing to enter the field for the home side here.
Rashford is in some pain here after a challenge with Sakho.
MAN UNITED SUB! Lingard replaces Mkhitaryan for the home side.
Possession football for the home side as we approach the final 20 minutes of action. You do get the feeling that we have not seen the last of the goals as both teams continue to press forward here.
PALACE SUB! James McArthur replaces Schlupp for the away side.
PALACE SUB! Riedewald replaces Puncheon for the away side.
CHANCE! Sako fires over from inside the Man United box!
CLOSE! Lukaku just misses the far post after breaking into the Palace box! So close to the Belgian opening his account for the afternoon. Really should have scored!
MAN UNITED SUB! Martial replaces Rashford for the home side.
Martial has already had a couple of chances to run at Ward since entering the field!
Martial finds Lukaku inside the Palace box, the Belgian lays the ball back to Lingard, but his effort is too high. Palace are preparing to make their third change of the match here.
PALACE SUB! Ladapo replaces Sako for the away side.
Bit of pressure from Palace in the last couple of minutes, but the ball will not fall for the visitors inside the Man United box, and the home side manage to clear. The Eagles deserve a goal here.
MAN UNITED SUB! Herrera replaces Mata for the home side.
Little over 10 minutes of football remaining, and Palace continue to create half-chances. Townsend delivers a dangerous free kick into the Man United box, but the ball drifts out for a goal kick.
Lingard has had a couple of chances to threaten since entering the field, but the Englishman has been let-down by some poor touches. You still get the feeling that there are more goals to come this afternoon as both teams continue to press forward. Still 3-0 with 82 minutes on the clock here.
SAVE! Martial sees his close-range attempt saved by Hennessey! Brilliant work from the Palace goalkeeper, who came out to confront the Frenchman inside the penalty area.
Little over five minutes of normal time remaining at Old Trafford, the home side are heading for the top of the Premier League table. They will be three points clear of second-place Manchester City by the time that the Citizens take to the field against the champions Chelsea in just under an hour!
GOAL! Man United 4-0 Palace (Lukaku)
Lukaku finally gets his name on the scoresheet as the Belgian converts a low cross from Martial!
Man United have the chance to threaten from another free kick in a dangerous area, but Hennessey is out to make the claim as Palace avoid conceding a fifth, for the moment.
We are into the first of three additional minutes at the end of the 90.
Man United keep the ball as we head for the final moments of this match.
FULL-TIME: Man United 4-0 Palace
So there we have it. The referee brings the second period to a close with Man United recording a 4-0 win over basement side Palace. The result has seen Mourinho's side move three points clear at the top of the table, while Palace remain rooted to the bottom. Thanks for joining us once again!