Fresh from recharging their batteries with a warm weather training, Manchester United are back in Premier League action at Selhurst Park for a crunch match against Tony Pulis’ resurgent Crystal Palace.
United are all but out of the race for fourth place but Europa League places are still up for grabs and the Reds need to find some form ahead of an important Champions League game in midweek, having won just three matches in ten since the turn of the year without an away victory in 2014.
The football played by Moyes’ men has been woeful all season and despite a draw away at Arsenal last time out not being the worst result in the world, it has left United 11 points behind Liverpool – a deficit which seems nigh on impossible to overturn in the remaining 12 games of 2013/14.
With a trip to Greece in midweek on the horizon, Moyes may rotate the squad for the evening kick-off with Palace with a view to prioritising the Champions League as a good run in Europe could potentially save the 50-year-old Scot’s job at Old Trafford.
Rafael, Jonny Evans, Danny Welbeck and Nani are all unlikely to feature while Phil Jones may be preserved for the Champions League tie with Olympiacos should Moyes opt for a pragmatic approach away from home in Europe, which he typically has in his short spell at the club so far.
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace have also had an extended break of sorts due to having no FA Cup commitments and their last league game against Everton was postponed, so the Eagles haven’t played in nearly a fortnight.
Palace are a different proposition compared to the outfit which lined up against United in September this season and have been in impressive form since Pulis took the reins at Selhurst Park, transforming themselves from near dead certs for relegation to climbing clear of the drop zone.
Pulis’ men are in decent form with three wins in their last four league games and have improved markedly since former Stoke boss Pulis replaced Ian Holloway. The Welshman has his side well-organised and they will certainly be no pushovers as the Reds come to town.
Tom Ince and Joe Ledley have both hit the ground running since signing late in the January window and Jerome Thomas is their only real injury concern ahead of the fixture under the Selhurst Park floodlights.
When the two sides met earlier in the season, United came out 2-0 victors thanks to goals from Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. That victory was an important one for Moyes but six months down the line, pressure has mounted on United’s beleaguered manager and defeat could be the straw which breaks the proverbial camel’s back.
United have not lost to Palace in the Premier League era with seven wins and two draws in the last nine league meetings at a score of 19-3. The Eagles will be heartened by United’s poor form and in a season full of shocks, it would be unwise to take Pulis’ side lightly.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Manchester United