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Erik ten Hag’s team are building up some momentum and they should have enough to win at Selhurst Park.
Back Manchester United to beat (+110) Crystal Palace on Sunday
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Erik ten Hag cannot have been too impressed on his last trip to Selhurst Park – and that is nothing against Crystal Palace’s charming but somewhat ramshackle stadium. The then-Ajax boss was in south London on May 22 to watch Manchester United’s final game of the 2021/22 Premier League season, having agreed to take charge of the club a few days earlier. Ten Hag had no input into team selection or tactics, which remained the remit of interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
United were dismal. A 1-0 defeat flattered them; Palace were superior in all departments. The most shocking thing was that the result was not even a surprise. Many expected Patrick Vieira’s to triumph, and they did so by being the dominant team. United’s performance underlined how far they had fallen and how difficult it would be for Ten Hag to lift the club out of its malaise.
That reality was emphasized by United’s horrendous start to the current campaign. Back-to-back defeats by Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford left the Red Devils rooted to the foot of the table after two games.
But that 4-0 loss to Brentford seems to have been the nadir. Since then, United have won four games on the bounce in the Premier League, including defeats of Liverpool and Arsenal. Pundits are once more beginning to talk up their chances of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification. Ten Hag has made some bold decisions – most notably in dropping Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench – and they have all paid off so far.
After six rounds of fixtures, Crystal Palace have already had to face the two favorites for the Premier League title in Liverpool and Manchester United, plus the current leaders Arsenal. With Manchester United up next, it has been a very difficult start for Patrick Vieira’s side, who sit 15th in the standings with six points to their name so far.
Palace have drawn both of their last two matches. They were left frustrated in a 1-1 tie with Brentford, as the Eagles tried to shut up shop too early and were punished by their enterprising opponents, for whom Yoane Wissa notched the equalizer late on. The shoe was on the other foot last weekend, with Palace keeping a dominant Newcastle United out at St James’ Park.
In truth, the club from the capital were fortunate to escape with a point. They had their moments on the counter-attack, but Newcastle were the better team and they could consider themselves had done by after controversially having a goal disallowed by the video assistant referee.
Only Liverpool and City lost fewer matches to the Premier League’s big six than Palace last term, but Vieira’s side are yet to get into their stride in 2022/23. There looks to be an overreliance on Wilfried Zaha to score goals, while the squad is probably two or three bodies light. Palace are unlikely to be involved in a relegation battle, but qualification for the Europa Conference League or Europa League will almost certainly be beyond them.
Of the starting XI that Rangnick selected for that aforementioned 1-0 loss to Palace in May, only four players are likely to be on the pitch when the first whistle sounds at Selhurst on Sunday: David de Gea, Diogo Dalot, Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes. Ten Hag has wasted little time in putting his stamp on this team, and summer signings Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen, Antony and Tyrell Malacia appear to be pivotal figures in his plans.
There is still a doubt surrounding United, though. They beat Liverpool and Arsenal with a counter-attacking strategy that can bring success in individual matches but is unlikely to be a winning formula in the long term. In games where they had more possession, such as the narrow 1-0 wins against Southampton and Leicester City, United were not quite so comfortable. They were arguably second best in last weekend’s 3-1 defeat of Arsenal too.
That is why Sunday’s showdown at Selhurst is significant. Ten Hag’s team need to show they can impress in this sort of game. Palace like to have possession when they are playing in front of their own fans and United will still have opportunities to break forward at speed in transition, but they will definitely have more of the ball than they did in those memorable victories over Liverpool and Arsenal.
That is something to watch out for. But United are playing well now and their confidence has been revived. Back them to come out on top against Palace.
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|Crystal Palace vs Manchester United
|Selhurst Park, London, England
|Sunday, 11 September 2022, 11.30 AM EST
|How to watch
|USA Network, fuboTV
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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