Match Preview: Manchester United vs Crystal Palace


By - Friday 13th September, 2013

Matt Woosnam starts the first of a regular series of match previews, as Crystal Palace take on one of the biggest clubs in the world


“Ambrose… NOT A BAD EFFORT… OH WHAT A GOAL BY DARREN AMBROSE!”

An iconic piece of commentary, for the most outstanding goal I have ever seen. Last time Crystal Palace and Manchester United met, in the Carling Cup Quarter Final, you would have been hard pressed to find a single Palace fan who believed that they had a chance of victory, and yet, that is exactly what came at the final whistle. The Eagles will be looking for someone to step up and produce a magical moment to send the 3000 travelling fans home happy once again when the clubs meet in the Premier League on Saturday.

Old Trafford Stadium. Photo by Richard Hoare. Used under the Creative Commons Licence

The Carling Cup quarter final saw Palace’s Darren Ambrose strike a 40-yard effort into the top corner, and Glenn Murray shoulder the ball into the back of the net either side of Federico Macheda’s equaliser. So what can we expect almost two years later in this Premier League clash?

United: Quality but question marks

Palace picked up their first points of the season with an impressive 3-1 victory at home to a disappointing Sunderland team prior to the international break, whilst the Red Devils have stuttered since hammering Swansea 4-1 on the opening day of the season with a draw from their match with Chelsea and a defeat to Liverpool.

It hasn’t been an easy ride for new manager David Moyes, but when you’re taking over a job from someone who has had unrivalled success, there’s bound to be pressure and difficulty involved.  Whilst Palace strengthened with a number of signings in the last weeks of the transfer window, United were criticised for only bringing in Marouane Fellaini from Everton, and then for paying over the odds for the Belgian midfielder due to the expiration of a release clause in his contract.

There has arguably never been a better time to play Manchester United

However, there is no denying that United have an impressive squad, with the likes of Robin van Persie leading the line, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand protecting David de Gea in goal. Ryan Giggs is still going strong on the left of midfield, and Palace will need to be aware of the threat posed by his vast experience and intelligent play.

Zaha to feature?

There is, of course, a former Palace player who now plies his trade at Old Trafford. Wilfried Zaha is yet to play in the Premier League for United, but has been included in their Champions League squad. Whether Palace fans will be hoping to see the former Selhurst Park protégé play some part on Saturday is up for debate, as the electric winger could pose many a problem for Dean Moxey who is certain to continue at left-back.

Palace pumped despite injuries

Ian Holloway may decide to continue with the same side which defeated Sunderland last time out, but to an extent his hand has been forced. Jonathan Williams picked up an injury on international duty with Wales, whilst new signings Jack Hunt and Jimmy Kebe have been injured in training and will miss out. As a result, young defender Quade Taylor may find himself on the substitutes bench as cover for Joel Ward at right-back, with the youngster impressing Ian Holloway in pre-season.  Adrian Mariappa may be thrust straight into action at centre-back to counter the impact of the pace from Van Persie, Welbeck and Young. Such a move would be somewhat harsh on Danny Gabbidon, the man who would miss out, as the Welshman has been outstanding ever since the play-off semi-final matches against Brighton.

Palace frontman Marouane Chamakh. Photo by Wonka. Used under the Creative Commons licence

In midfield, Jose Campana should keep his place, whilst captain Mile Jedinak is the first name on the team sheet. Holloway has a decision to make regarding whether to play Kagisho Dikgacoi or new signing from Nottingham Forest, Adlene (Pep) Guedioura. The South African has been in superb form this season, but Guedioura offers slightly more  in attack whilst still providing defensive cover.

Experience to be gained

Marouane Chamakh will undoubtedly continue as the lone striker, with Jason Puncheon and Dwight Gayle continuing on the wings.

The Eagles will be looking to the experience of Chamakh up front, and the tenacity of Australian Jedinak to see them through in what will be a tough ask at Old Trafford. Nonetheless, with 3000 supporters backing them, Palace will be hopeful of picking up at least a point from their travels. There has arguably never been a better time to play Manchester United, with a lack of stability induced by the change of management and only one victory from three matches making the Red Devils somewhat vulnerable against a Palace side who will be smelling blood, and looking to be fast out of the blocks.

Nevertheless, it is hard to see Palace gain anything from the match, other than to use it as a valuable experience. A defeat beckons, but pride will remain in tact.

Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Crystal Palace.

Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace – Old Trafford Stadium, Saturday 14th September. Kick-off 12.45pm. Live on BT Sport 1.

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam is a Kingston University student in his final year as a Politics & International Relations undergraduate. A campaigner on mental health he is the founder of @Talk_Out, as well as part of the TalkEasyTrust, and seeks to break down stigma by encouraging talking out. Matt is also an avid Crystal Palace fan and the online editor of Five Year Plan Fanzine, as well as a regular contributor to the Croydon Guardian.

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