Crystal Palace vs Manchester United – Three Key Battles

Credit: 101GreatGoals
Credit: 101GreatGoals /

Manchester United are looking to bounce back after three games without victory when they travel to South London to take on Alan Pardew’s high-flying Crystal Palace side.

The Reds beat Palace in this fixture last season thanks to a late Marouane Fellaini header to all but clinch Champions League qualification for this season, putting to an end a run of three games without a win back then too.

Now, United need to impress following criticisms from club legend Paul Scholes. The ex-midfielder called Louis van Gaal’s side ‘boring’ to watch and forced a response from the manager during the pre-game press conference, who said that Scholes was making comments to get a payslip from BBC and Sky.

But with Crystal Palace coming into the game with bags of pace to expose Manchester United’s weaknesses, Louis van Gaal will have to be prepared and his players must be prepared for battles. These three battles are the keys to victory for both sides, so we look at them in a bit more details about where they can be won and lost.

Wilfried Zaha vs Marcos Rojo

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The young England winger has a score to settle with Manchester United and Louis van Gaal this Saturday. Zaha was a Manchester United player when the Dutch boss took over and after failing to impress, was shipped out on loan to former club Crystal Palace.

He impressed immediately and the deal was made permanent in January and ever since, Manchester United have looked like they could do with a player of his style. Fast, direct and skilful, Zaha is the type to give Marcos Rojo nightmares and if the Argentinian is selected, it will be a big task.

When Zaha is on form, he can cause havoc against any defender. With his pace, Rojo may get the nod over Daley Blind but the best way to nullify the 22 year-old’s threat is to push him the other way and make him defend, something that both full-backs are more than capable of doing.

James McArthur vs Ander Herrera

Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera has come into his own in recent weeks following his move into a more advanced No.10 role for Manchester United.

His movement, passing, energy and tenacity have been huge factors in the way van Gaal’s team press the ball when out of possession and also in their attempts to create. He seems to have the passion and desire that many foreign players lack when coming to the Premier League, something that will stand him in good stead in one of the toughest away fixtures of the campaign.

He’ll come up against James McArthur in midfield who is a more defensive version of himself. Tenacious, tough-tackling and a decent passer, McArthur has proved the perfect foil for Yohan Cabaye this season but with the Frenchman a huge doubt for the game, his importance to the side has grown even more.

Herrera will need to have him on a string in this game and even if it means moving him out of the way with some intelligent runs without the ball to create more space for his team-mates, it’s a sacrifice he may have to make to win this game.

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Brede Hangelaand vs Anthony Martial

The ultimate hare and tortoise race, Manchester United will have a huge advantage here if Martial is played through the middle.

Louis van Gaal has moved Martial out to the left wing since the international break, opting to play captain Wayne Rooney in the No.9 role. While the captain has continued to wander aimlessly and struggled to provide any reason to keep his place in the team, Martial has blossomed and showed that he is a huge threat even in a wide role.

However, his efficiency has dropped since his shift in position. He is a natural goalscorer as shown by his first month at the club and by putting him up against the highly experienced but slow-as-a-snail Hangelaand in the centre of the pitch, van Gaal would instantly set Palace minds racing as to the if’s, buts and maybes.

Hangelaand though will be prepared and will no doubt use all of his experience if that situation was to arise. His strength and aerial ability are obvious advantages and he’d no doubt have the defence drop ten yards deeper to accomodate the runs in behind. It’s a battle that could see Manchester United rediscover their spark going forward, or see Crystal Palace totally stifle an already blunt sword.

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