James CookeManchester United vs. Crystal Palace, Saturday August 24th, 15:00, Old Trafford. Manchester United will be out to maintain the home form that saw them hammer Frank Lampard’s Chelsea on the opening day as another London club, Crystal Palace, make the trip north.
Manchester United will be out to maintain the home form that saw them hammer Frank Lampard’s Chelsea on the opening day as another London club, Crystal Palace, make the trip north.
It’s too early in the season to know what to make of United. Which team will turn up? The one that looked brilliant in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first few months, or the one that downed tools in the second half of the season?
Solskjaer is probably wondering that himself and he’ll probably learn more about his charges in games such as this and Monday’s visit to Wolves than from hosting the likes of Chelsea. Those fixtures in which a battling performance is required will give the manager more information that processions against teams who offer little resistance.
Palace, on the other hand, are a known quantity. Keeping Wilfried Zaha was crucial but either way Roy Hodgson was going to set out his team to be hard to beat, first and foremost. The presence of Zaha means they have more of a spark in attack than otherwise, although having failed to score in either of their two games this season, that’s not really been the case yet.
A goalless draw on the opening weekend with Everton, amid much transfer gossip involving the Toffees and Zaha, was probably not the worst result. Magic man Zaha wasn’t involved in the full 90 minutes, and as long as he was off the pitch Palace were always likely to struggle to score.
Defeat to newly-promoted Sheffield United, though, is a much more serious affair. Palace had more of the ball – which won’t often be the case this season – but struggled to create anything with it. Indeed, they had 10 shots to the Blades’ 18, and forced only four corners compared to the Blades’ eight.
Goals are going to be Palace’s problem all season. It’s hard to see them getting any against United, who can get a couple – and win 2-0.
When only one team looks like scoring, it’s not a bad idea to go for fewer goals than you’d otherwise expect. Palace are seriously lacking in attack and United shouldn’t need more than two to make the game safe. So with that in mind, 888Sport’s under 2.5 goals at 23/20 stands out.
Palace will be hard to break down – they’ll allow United to dominate possession of the football and look to break, and it shouldn’t be a shock if it takes a set-piece to break the deadlock. Harry Maguire’s a threat in such situations. He’s 5/1 to score anytime at 888Sport.
Head to Head
Betting sites will be well aware that United haven’t lost to Palace since a 2011 League Cup tie. They did play out a goalless draw at Old Trafford last season but that was the dregs of the Jose Mourinho era.
Palace have managed only 12 shots on goal in their opening two league games – Manchester City had 44.
Palace’s goalless draw with Everton was the second straight 0-0 with the Toffees – that was the outcome when they met in April too.
Zaha spent two years as a United player and was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last signing at the club. He played only four times for the Red Devils, failing to score.
But Zaha has made 338 appearances for Palace, scoring 53 goals.
Aspiring football journalist who realised he could put his vast knowledge towards gambling and making some money. With years spent on Football Manager, his boyhood obsession has carried over into his adult life and he's proven his mum that all that time spent playing a game wasn't to be wasted. A European football expert, James writes about anything on the continent and has began expanding his knowledge to other leagues in South America, Asia and the USA.