Manchester United have a tough outing at St.Mary’s stadium on Wednesday against Southampton before they host Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace at the Old Trafford on May 21, Sunday. A unbeaten run of 25 Premier league matches saw United creep up to the 5th spot by April end. But a couple of tough away outings against Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, both of which they lost, have put paid to their dreams of ending up in the Top 4. Thanks to these and a late-season revival by Arsenal, United have relinquished the 5th position on the Points Table to the Gunners.
As for Crystal Palace, credit must be given to the manner in which they fought their way up from a relegation territory 19th spot in February to a much respectable 13th presently. Allardyce’s men would have been in the Top half of the table had it not been for the succession of defeats at the hands of Tottenham, Burnley and Manchester City. A 4-0 win over Hull City last weekend restored some parity, though. It was Palace’s first bout of scoring after a dry run of four matches in which they were able to find the back of the net only twice. Allardyce’s men have a high strike-rate and the 50 goals they have pumped in during the 2016-17 season so far is the highest among all bottom-half teams and the 8th highest overall. In fact, United have just scored only 2 goals more than The Eagles.
Wilfried Zaha, Cabaye and Benteke have been swift and ruthless in their counter-attacking as demonstrated in their 4-0 win over Hull City a game in which they had only 30 per cent of the ball-possession. Even their defence was stoic and did not allow their opponents even a single shot at the goal.
For United, excepting for Ibrahimovic who has been ruled out for the season, others like Juan Mata, Carrick upfront and Smalling and Jones at the back seem to be coming out of their fitness issues and will in probability feature in the Old Trafford clash. Compared to Arsenal and Tottenham, Southampton and Crystal Palace will be considered easier opponents by Jose Mourinho’s men. But against Allardyce’s Crystal Palace, tougher sides have become complacent at their own peril as the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal learned the hard way earlier in the season.
Manchester United’s last trip to Selhurst Park had resulted in a 2-1 win, but Mourinho’s men will be facing a much more determined and organized Palace side at the Old Trafford on Sunday. Despite their 13th position on the EPL Table, the visitors could prove a handful and United, although the favourites for Sunday’s evening tie, will be wary of Palace’s reputation for causing upsets against top-grade sides.
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