Saturday, 22 February 2014

MATCH PREVIEW: Crystal Palace vs Manchester United

Having spent last weekend away in Dubai while other clubs bothered with frivolousness such as the fifth round of the FA Cup and having presumably watched in awe as two of their Premier League rivals – even though it’s hard to fathom they could still see us in  such a light – being taken apart by Bayern and Barcelona, United return to action today.
A trip to Crystal Palace should, in theory at least, be a rather exciting occasion – even though those who’ve had the misfortune of embarking in the public transport-induced ordeal that is getting to Selhurst Park will surely disagree – given that the Reds haven’t traveled to this part of South London since 2005.

Furthermore, a return to the ground were Eric Cantona famously took justice into his own hands – or rather, feet – 19 years ago should always be an occasion to relish and expect to see Eric’s masks aplenty in the away end of a ground where United have not lost since a 3-0 defeat in 1991.

Displaying the typical lack of understanding that characterize southerners when United are in town, Crystal Palace fans have compared wearing Cantona fans to mocking the death of a Palace fan, gleefully ignoring that he lost his life at a different game, while all Eric did was kick a xenophobe, who then went to sell his story to the Sun.

Aside from basking in Eric’s glory, however, today’s game could prove to be yet another embarrassing occasion for David Moyes and his team, given that Palace are arguably one of the most in form teams in the league, having not lost at home in four games, during which they’ve conceded just two goals over that period, an impressive record for a side that looked doomed before Tony Pulis replaced Ian Holloway in November.

To put United’s dismal season into context, Palace have picked up 20 points at home this season, just one less than United have done at Old Trafford and with all due respect for Tony Pulis’s men those numbers say more about Moyes and United than they do about Palace.

Moyes hasn’t seen his men victorious in the last three games, with defeat at Stoke followed by draws against Fulham and Arsenal and with hopes of a Champions League spot all but gone, United are in danger of missing out even on the Europa League if results don’t pick up.

With Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Nani all still sidelined, the back four should mirror the one that traveled to the Emirates, unless Moyes opts to dislodge Rio Ferdinand from the bench for a rare start, providing Moyes deems him fit enough to handle the devastating attacking insticts of Marouane Chamakh – irony aside, expect the former Arsenal man to turn it on a Lionel Messi.

Having been absent since the days when people still believed Moyes could turn things around, everyone’s favourite bog brush impersonator made the bench at the Emirates and could even be afforded a handful of minutes on the pitch tomorrow, providing that he manages to stay fit during the warm-up.

Should Fellaini not feature, then we can expect to see the usual dynamic combo of Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley in midfield, with Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and one between Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia deployed behind Robin Van Persie who, according to Holland manager Louis Van Gaal, is happier when he plays for his national side than when he turns out for United.

In theory, it’d be interesting to see how United go about their business against a team full of confidence and desperate to put further daylight between them and the bottom three, but in truth Mata, RVP and Mr £300,000-a-week are likely to be left isolated throughout the game as United merrily hoof the ball back and forth.

Oh Eric, where art thou?

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