MX23RW : Thursday, October 18 08:09:19
Sep 30, 2017 at 3pm UK at ​Old Trafford
Attendance: 75,118
Man UtdManchester United
Crystal Palace
Mata (3'), Fellaini (35', 49'), Lukaku (86')
FT(HT: 2-0)

Preview: Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace

Sports Mole previews the Premier League showdown at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Crystal Palace.

Manchester United play host to Crystal Palace in their Premier League fixture at Old Trafford knowing that just a point will be enough to take the club back to the top of the standings ahead of Manchester City's meeting with Chelsea.

As for Crystal Palace, Roy Hodgson faces the task of trying to end a run of six games without a point as they look to improve their chances of avoiding being cut adrift at the bottom of the table.

Manchester United

Jose Mourinho waves after the Premier League game between Manchester United and Crystal Palace on May 21, 2017© SilverHub

Jose Mourinho will still be furious with witnessing his team lose a clean sheet in the 90th minute against CSKA Moscow on Wednesday evening but all in all, the Portuguese takes his side into their meeting with Crystal Palace full of smiles.

That has rarely been the case since his arrival at Old Trafford but eight wins from nine games in all competitions has left everyone associated with the club believing that this can finally be the year where they reclaim a place among European football's elite.

During that period, United have netted 28 goals - a complete turnaround from their struggles last season - and while Romelu Lukaku continues to score at will, much of the attention has been on the rebirth of Anthony Martial.

At one stage, the former Monaco forward appeared to be destined for a bit-part role this campaign after United refused to entertain a departure, but the Frenchman has been sensational over the past weeks, and the attacker is likely to be one of the first names on the teamsheet after contributing both goals and assists in Russia on Wednesday.

United are missing players in the centre of the park but while they are ruthless in front of goal and having few problems in defence, the absence of Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini is only a minor point in what has been a terrific start to the season.

In theory, Palace should be easy fodder on Saturday afternoon and if that proves to be true, United can then head into a considerably tougher stage of the campaign having registered an almost perfect set of results as they bid to claim their first league title since 2013.

Recent form: WWWDWW
Recent form (all competitions): DWWWWW

Crystal Palace

Roy Hodgson is having a mare during the Premier League game between Crystal Palace and Southampton on September 16, 2017© SilverHub

When Hodgson accepted an offer to replace Frank de Boer at Selhurst Park, the former England coach would have been aware of Palace's upcoming schedule but a 5-0 defeat to United's rivals Manchester City would not have been in the new manager's thinking.

It was always a possibility given the array of talent at the Etihad Stadium, but the impression was given that De Boer was solely at fault at the London-based club, rather than the players just not hitting the heights they achieved under Sam Allardyce.

Confidence and tactics are sure to have played their part in Palace's demise but the finger should not just be pointed at De Boer. Palace still remain without a goal in the top flight and that is down to players not taking opportunities.

It is still early days but Palace are in danger of being left on their own at the bottom of the table. A home clash with Chelsea and a trip to Newcastle United follow their showdown with United so it does not get much easier, but it remains imperative that at least a point is gained from somewhere.

Palace have already extended the worst-ever top flight start for a generation to six matches and despite the strength of their upcoming opponents, they cannot afford to go almost a quarter of the way through the campaign without any sort of a return.

The enforced absence of Christian Benteke comes as a blow but it at least gives Palace the chance to steer away from an over-reliance on last season's top goalscorer, something which could have acted as a detriment if the Belgian were to continue to look shot-shy in the final third.

Recent form: LLLLLL
Recent form (all competitions): WLLLWL

Team News

Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring during the EFL Cup game between Manchester United and Burton Albion on September 20, 2017© Offside

Pogba, Fellaini and Michael Carrick will be all missing for United - as they were for the trip to Moscow in midweek.

Either Daley Blind or Ashley Young is likely to make way for Juan Mata with Mourinho having more licence to play offensive-minded players.

Matteo Darmian and Jesse Lingard also represent options, but Marcus Rashford may have to remain on the bench due to the form of Martial.

James Tomkins is likely to come into the Palace defence with Timothy Fosu-Mensah ineligible to line up against his parent club.

Bakary Sako could be used as a replacement for the injured Benteke as Hodgson contemplates whether to enter the market for a free agent.

Wilfried Zaha has stepped up his comeback from a knee injury, but he is unlikely to be risked until after the international break.

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Blind, Matic, Herrera, Mkhitaryan, Mata, Martial, Lukaku

Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Hennessey, Tomkins, Dann, Sakho, Van Aanholt, Milivojevic, Cabaye, Puncheon, Loftus-Cheek, Townsend, Sako

Head To Head

Saturday's fixture represents just the 52nd time in which these two teams have faced each other in a competitive meeting, with United claiming 34 wins in comparison to just the seven victories for Palace.

Results-wise, United have dominated the last nine matches with eight wins being recorded during that time, but it has been as many as 11 clashes since United scored more than two goals against Palace.

The last time that the Eagles claimed victory at Old Trafford came in 2011, when Darren Ambrose and Glenn Murray got on the scoresheet to earn a 2-1 success for their team after extra time in the EFL Cup.

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We say: Manchester United 5-0 Crystal Palace

Manchester United are averaging nearly three goals per game, and Palace are yet to score and have the equal-worst defence in the league. There can only be one winner in the North-West and we expect United to head into the international break in style to further cement their challenge at the league's summit.

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Jose Mourinho watches on during the Premier League game between Swansea City and Manchester United on August 19, 2017
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