After yet another international break, Manchester United are finally back in action as newly promoted Crystal Palace visits Old Trafford tomorrow in the first game of an important eight days for David Moyes.
Saturday’s early kick-off against last seasons play-off winners is followed by a testing midweek Champions League clash against Bayer Leverkusen before a potentially season-defining clash against Manchester City.
After a testing start to the season with United winning just one of their first three league games, points need to be accumulated quickly to get the title challenge back on track.
Moyes will aiming to secure his first taste of victory at home after a drab goalless draw last time out against Chelsea and United’s home form is traditionally the bedrock of a successful league campaign. With Palace coming to town, the 50-year-old Scot has room to rotate after sticking to a tried and tested formula in the early stages of his United career, using just 13 players from the start. There are likely to be changes aplenty for the lunchtime kick-off.
The squad appears to be in reasonably good shape too with Shinji Kagawa and Wilfried Zaha impressing while strutting their stuff for their national sides this week and both are likely to be pushing for a start this weekend.
Wayne Rooney‘s gash is healing well Moyes confirmed in today’s press conference but he is unlikely to start as the wound skin is still very new.
Fabio da Silva, Jonny Evans and Javier Hernandez are also yet to start a league game this season so will be in contention for Palace’s visit.
As for summer signing Marouane Fellaini, the 5th most expensive player in United history, he could make his much-anticipated debut for the club after a deadline day move from Everton.
Palace, fresh from their first Premier League victory against Sunderland, could hand a whole host of players their debut after a very busy transfer deadline day.
Adrian Mariappa, Adlene Guedioura, Barry Bannan and Cameron Jerome could all feature after sealing moves to Selhurst Park. Jack Hunt, signed from Huddersfield Town, is ruled out for Ian Holloway’s men.
The last time the two sides met, Palace performed a giant killing by beating United 2-1 at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup, with Wilfried Zaha causing the United rear-guard no-end of problems. It’s hoped he can perform similarly well this time against his former club if given the opportunity.
United boast an impressive record against promoted teams with their last home defeat coming against Middlesborough in 1993 and after two consecutive games without a goal for the first time in five years, United will want to bounce back in emphatic fashion.
It’s difficult to see anything but a victory for the home side in this encounter. While Ian Holloway’s teams usually score plenty of goals, a strong United team should be enough to see off a side which many predict will be fighting for their Premier League lives come May.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Crystal Palace