Manchester United’s race for a Champions League berth continues Wednesday with a midweek Premier League clash against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.
It has been a season of great inconsistency for Louis van Gaal’s boys – sometimes they seem like world-beaters and sometimes they look completely uninterested, clueless – and it has become an unenviable task for the Dutch manager to bring out consistent performances from his side.
Saturday’s 1-0 victory over relegated Aston Villa sits somewhere between those two extreme points. United dominated the proceedings in the first half and snatched the winner courtesy youngster Marcus Rashford, who has been a revelation with seven goals from 12 matches since his call-up from the Red Devils academy.
However LVG’s men looked clueless in the second half and almost allowed Villa back into the game, but the defence held up to keep the clean sheet.
The win helped Manchester United to open a three-point gap on West Ham for fifth place and remain within four of Arsenal for fourth and the final Champions League spot with five matches to go.
Wednesday’s Old Trafford showdown could become a stage rehearsal of the FA Cup final as United could face Palace at Wembley if they get past Everton in the semifinals Saturday.
Meanwhile, after breaking a horrific club record 13-game winless run in the league with a 1-0 victory against Norwich City on 9th April, Alan Pardew’s Eagles have it all to fight against Watford in the other FA Cup semifinal Sunday, but they have to first remain focused on the challenge at hand on Wednesday.
The club enter this fixture with some much-needed positive energy after snatching a point away from the Emirates Stadium with a 1-1 draw against Arsenal courtesy a goal from Yannick Bolasie nine minutes from time.
Manchester United: The home side have already been boosted by the return of their injury-hit captain Wayne Rooney. However, the rumoured feud between Rooney and Louis van Gaal may create some tension for them. Apart from this, Manchester United are yet to get back Luke Shaw and Bastian Schweinsteiger, both have been injured for far too long. Ander Herrera has a minor leg injury and will probably be given rest.
Predicted Lineup (4-2-3-1) – De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Fosu-Mensah, Darmian; Schneiderlin, Fellaini; Lingard, Rooney, Memphis; Martial.
Crystal Palace: Alan Pardew will not be pleased with the foot injury of Scott Dann. Although the injury is not serious, the dependable Crystal Palace defender might have to miss this important fixture. Brede Hangeland, James McArthur and Dwight Gayle will also be unavailable.
Predicted Line Up (4-2-3-1) – Hennessey; Kelly, Dann, Delaney, Souare; McAthur, Ledley; Zaha, Puncheon, Chung-young; Adebayor.
Manchester United have been impressive in their defence and have a little chance to concede against Crystal Palace. But, the goalscoring rates remain a major concern for LVG as it has been very poor throughout the season. Our prediction is a 1-0 win for Manchester United.
Manchester United have won their last eight home league matches against Crystal Palace.
Palace have kept only one clean sheet away to Manchester United in league competition in 18 attempts – October 1970 (1-0).
Marcus Rashford has scored seven goals in his 12 appearances for Manchester United so far, despite only 10 shots on target.
Palace have won six Premier League points (W1 D3 L0) in April so far, more than in January, February and March combined (two points – W0 D2 L9).
All three of Emmanuel Adebayor’s Premier League goals against Manchester United have been scored at Old Trafford.
Manchester United win – 8/15
Draw – 3/1
Crystal Palace win – 11/2