After two weeks of separation between the disappointing start to the season, the first big acquisition and a return to action for Manchester United, it’s good to have a team like Crystal Palace coming to visit at the Old Trafford to end the (too) long international break.
After not being able to score for two consecutive matches, a first for Manchester United since 2007, facing off against newly promoted Crystal Palace might be just what the doctor ordered. Marouane Fellaini is lineup up to make his debut for his new team, and the addition of afro, aerial ability and strength in the middle of the pitch isn’t great news for a side that did beat Sunderland before the two-week vacation, but is barely likely to be a danger considering their woeful away record going into the match: they’ve collected just 25 points from their last 24 league games away from home.
United will be thwarted by the lingering absence of Wayne Rooney, which means a lot less creativity on the pitch. There’s a huge difference in how the team looks with or without him, even as an option from the bench, and it’ll be interesting to see how Moyes copes with the situation: More Young or Giggs on the left, with Valencia on the right, while Welbeck plays next to Van Persie? Or will he listen to the critics and start using Shinji Kagawa once and for all?
Phil Jones and Rafael are also unavailable, which should put Chris Smalling at right back, with United quite confident of what their defense has been showing so far this season.
For Crystal Palace, it’s not just their many injuries: Manager Ian Holloway, the fire and passion behind this group, won’t be on the sidelines, serving a touchline ban for his comments after their loss to Tottenham. Holloway tried to create some waves by revealing the side tried to re-sign Wilfried Zaha during the summer – the talented youngster hasn’t really made an impact for his new club, with Moyes preferring more veteran options on the wing up to this point.
Prediction – It’s been almost a decade since Manchester United hosted Crystal Palace, winning 5-2 in the middle of the 2004-2005 season. While they’ve shown problems scoring so far with Rooney off the pitch, the contest should be just as “close” this time as it was nine years ago.