Manchester United look to make up for lost time in their season opener
Manchester United to win 3-1
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be wanting his side to show that quality is better than quantity after a relatively quiet transfer window by their standards.
Aside from several academy purchases, Donny Van Der Beek is the sole purchase made by the Old Trafford club in a £40m deal with Ajax. The move will add further quality to an already packed midfield, but the club’s pursuit of other targets has so far led to nothing.
United will still feel confident going into the new season, however. They ended last season in blistering form and will hope several weeks rest will see them ready to kick on.
Crystal Palace were impressive as they saw off Southampton last week. The Eagles were tipped by many to struggle this season, but if they continue to pick up wins at home, they’ll be pleased.
United will be pleased to start the season at home, but it may not be straightforward for them.
Predicted 2020/21 finish: 3rd
Reasons to be cheerful:
Sensational form saw them claim 3rd place at the end of last season
Young squad will only improve with time
Reasons to be fearful:
Lack of signings in key areas and Jadon Sancho transfer at stalemate
Question marks over trophy winning mentality
Last season it seemed Manchester United were just starting to learn how to win games against lesser opposition who sat back and defended deep.
At times recently, United have struggled to break teams like Palace down. Even with quality players like Pogba, Rashford and Martial they often failed to create the volume of chances expected from a United side.
With Bruno Fernandes, however, things are now different. Teams know he can play the right pass to unlock them, which is why they have won so many games since he joined.
All eyes again will be on the front three of Greenwood, Rashford and Martial who, if there are no more signings, will need to repeat, if not exceed, their 62 combined goals from last season.
They’ll be grateful to start their season at home but could struggle if they are complacent against Palace.
Star Man – Bruno Fernandes
With 12 goals and 8 assists in 22 games since signing, he has almost single-handedly rejuvenated this United side. More will be expected from him in his second season.
Predicted 2020/21 finish: 14th
Reasons to be cheerful
Zaha is still at the club (for now at least)
Highly experienced manager with well-balanced squad
Reasons to be fearful
Suffered terrible form at the end of last season
Must play again (midweek) before playing United
As is the case most years recently, Palace’s biggest success in the transfer market is keeping hold of their best player, Wilf Zaha.
The transfer window is not closed yet of course – they may still lose him. But he yet again proved his worth by netting the winner against Southampton in their first match of the season.
Securing a loan deal for Michy Batshuayi, alongside the exciting addition of Eberechi Eze, will boost their goalscoring opportunities too.
Manager Roy Hodgson’s chief concern, however, was the rate at which they lost matches at the end of last season (7 in a row). In fact, they only won a single game since football restarted after lockdown.
It will not be the end of the world if they lost to Manchester United this weekend, which could well happen. It will their results against teams around them that will dictate their season.
Star Man – Wilf Zaha
He’s the player with the star quality in their team, but can they keep him?
United will look to boss the game
The Reds could be a little rusty will less game time than Palace
Palace must be adventurous to get anything from game
Manchester United know they must win a higher percentage of games this season to challenge Liverpool and Man City – they finished 33 points behind Jurgen Klopp’s team.
They will be a little rusty having only played one friendly in the past month, but will still fancy their chances with their creative players up front.
Palace can cause them problems, particularly on the counter. However, if they sit too deep they will be punished for lack of adventure.
Manchester United to win 3-1