On Wednesday, Manchester United and Crystal Palace were kicked out of the Capital One Cup. Palace were dominated by Manchester City 5-1, and United went out after penalties and a 0-0 draw to Championship club Middlesbrough.
Despite the 3 place, and 5 point, Premier League gap between the two clubs, they are both struggling on the scoring front.
When Alan Pardew was appointed at the beginning of January, last season, Palace had a -9 goal difference, after 22 scored and 31 conceded. Under new management the side scored 25 goals and conceded 20 giving them a final goal difference of -4, which showed improvement in their attack.
Now 10 games into the new season Palace have a +1 goal difference but a lot of these goals came earlier in the season. In all competitions the Eagles have lost their last 3 games, scoring 2 and conceding 9.
The losing streak has come against West Ham United, Leicester City and Manchester City, all of whom are topping the Premier League table, as are Manchester United.
Palace switched keepers, from Alex McCarthy to Wayne Hennessey, after a losing 2 earlier in the season. The replacement net minder won his first 2 games, but has been between the posts during this tough run of games.
Manchester United have never lost a Premier League game against Crystal Palace. In 12 meets, United have taken the 3 points 10 times. However, the Red Devils were bested by the Eagles in the 2011 League Cup.
The biggest event of the summer, for Crystal Palace, was Alan Pardew reuniting with Yohan Cabaye, who he had previously bought and sold as Newcastle manager.
Palace signed the French playmaker from the Ligue 1 giants, Paris Saint-Germain, for nearly half the price that they had acquired him for just 2 seasons ago.
Cabaye is joint top goal scorer for Palace, along with Dwight Gayle. Both players are on 4 goals and an assist.
The matchup sees ex-Red Devil Wilfried Zaha take on his old club again. Poor Wilfy had so much potential coming to Old Trafford but the change of management and some of his off field ordeals with Moyes’ daughter didn’t do him any favours.
If Sir Alex Ferguson had stayed on for a couple more years Zaha might have become a regular feature for the Manchester Reds.
Zaha is part of a kind of winger committee, being selected among Yannick Bolasie and Bakary Sako. All 3 wide-outs posses blistering pace and tricky dribbling but Zaha is performing best so far. The English-Ivorian has 2 goals and 3 assists this season.
The centre back pairing of Scott Dann and Brede Hangeland has been integral to the club’s surge up the Prem table. Both have been performing at a consistently high level all season and will give United’s flailing attack few chances to get a sight of goal.
Jason Puncheon has been enrolled into the attacking midfield position, similar to where Rooney’s been slumped in many games this season. Puncheon only has 2 assists this season but does so much for his team to set up the set up to the goal.
Manchester United’s defence has been rock solid for the last few games but the attack has turned flaccid. This needs to change fast or they’ll soon see themselves looking in at the Champions League places.
The Red Devils will have a hard time getting past Hangeland and Dann, but the snipers in the squad will be favoured to score against Welsh keeper Wayne Hennessey.
The overly crossing focused tactics will struggle against the very tall Palace defence, but speed and skill, like that used by City, would unravel the compact Eagles back four.
Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata all have great feet, work well on the break and are quick to react to through balls, so could find success playing quick balls through the defence.
Like the Everton match, I think that Manchester United will come out swinging in this game and score 2 or more goals. Crystal Palace are very quick on the attack, but the United defence fought off the likes of Sterling, Navas, de Bruyne and Yaya last week so why not Zaha and Bolasie as well.
The match kicks off at 15:00 at Selhurst Park.