As an Irishman, I am not sorry to see the end of the international break. Thankfully, the Premiership is back this weekend and Manchester United are in action when they welcome Crystal Palace to Old Trafford. Of course, prior to the international break, United were swept aside with ease at The Emptihad – I mean Etihad – by bitter rivals City. The stark reality of the situation is that City are streets ahead of Utd right now. Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing United back in domestic action on Saturday. Similarly, The Eagles lost to Spurs in their last fixture and just goal difference keeps them out of the drop zone. In spite of their decent performances, goals have eluded them but they may fancy their chances against a United side that has shipped 21 goals so far; just 7 less than the whole of last season. With United now 12 points behind City, and 7 off fourth, they cannot afford any more slip ups with the possibility of missing out on a Champions League spot becoming a reality. This week, I got in touch with Jay of The Eagles Beak to preview the weekends game. We discussed Palace’s start to the season and Jose Mourinho. Moreover, he gave his verdict on how the game will pan out and predicts a frustrating afternoon for the Old Trafford faithful.
What have you made of Crystal Palace’s start to the season?
Not great. We have kept ourselves out of the bottom three after a slow start which has been marginally better than last season. Our problem is the lack of goals from our strikers, not one of our named forwards have scored. Thankfully, the form of Wilfried Zaha has kept our heads above water but there have been some promising performances in what has been a tough run of fixtures against most of the top six sides. With a fit Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham to choose from, at some point before the end of the year, we should see the ball hit the back the net more often that we have seen so far.
Having lost to Spurs, only goal difference keeps you out of the drop zone. What do Palace need to do to pull away from the relegation zone?
Some of our performances have been very good; we are just missing goals which is critical in this game, let alone the Premier League. I alluded to that fact above that we need to be more clinical in front of goal against the sides we should be beating. While we have come close against the likes of Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea, losing to teams like Wolves and Bournemouth has been the problem and that has to improve if we are to stay up this season. Plenty of times already we have heard ‘Palace have been unlucky’, ‘Palace will be okay,’ but we cannot keep hearing it every week. A signing or two in January may help.
Last weekend also saw United lose. What are you thoughts on Jose Mourinho and this current United side?
I have a lot of time for Jose Mourinho, he is one of those characters that is really missing in the game these days. His actions after the fantastic win in Turin were brilliant. Fans taunt throughout the game so why can’t he give some back afterwards? He seems to have a soft sport for Palace too, as he has always applauded the home support at Selhurst Park. As for United, I always thought he would be the perfect fit but it has not quite worked out so far but from the outside looking in, that does not seem to be all down to managerial position.
What do you think will be key to Palace getting a positive result?
A returning Wilfried Zaha and playing on the break; which suits our game a lot better. We need to soak up the pressure and use the pace that Wilf has, along with Andros Townsend; that will be key. It is likely to be Jordan Ayew will be the loan striker; he will need to put away any chance that comes his way. Add to that our full backs that are always quick getting forward, we hope that will work in our favour and we can sneak a goal.
Tactically, what can United expect from Palace?
A side struggling for goals so we will either play a false nine, with Wilf and Andros playing further forward, or either Ayew or Alexander Sorloth starting as the loan striker. Behind them will be a solid midfield three or four made up of at least Luka Milivojevic and Chiekhou Kouyate. Our back line have played well this season but time will tell whether the in form James Tomkins will continue to partner Mamadou Sakho in the centre of defence after limping off against Spurs.
Similarly, what are you expecting from United?
A side hard to break down and a real threat going forward, particularly with an in form Anthony Martial. It is difficult to know what line up Mourinho will go with for this one as plenty of the top sides have underestimated us this season, like Chelsea who started Eden Hazard on the bench. There is a feeling that this season may be one of the best chances Palace have had of getting something out of United as it is getting boring now; they are one team we have had very little success against.
From a Palace point of view, who is the danger-man you need to be wary of?
Paul Pogba should he start. Also, Anthony Martial in his current form will be dangerous & Juan Mata has always been a player I have admired; I am amazed he does not quite get the game time he should at United.
Finally, what is your score prediction?
It’s difficult to know which United side will turn up against Palace; the one that beat Juve or the one that lost to West Ham. Hopefully the latter so we have a chance of taking a point; I will boldly go for a 1-1 draw as we could really do with it!