Crystal Palace v Man United is exactly the kind of game in which Bruno Fernandes will thrive…
All of Man Utd’s worst results this season have been in games when the opposition has a very clear and very humble tactical plan: to sit right back, concede 70-75% possession, and trust that United won’t be able to break them down. The best example of this was Crystal Palace’s 3-1 win at Old Trafford back in September.
United have improved a lot since then and are perhaps unlikely to make as many mistakes, while Palace are without their talisman Wilfried Zaha. That points to an heroic effort needed from the hosts – and ultimately another game in which Man Utd win the ‘moments’, with a sudden burst of creativity from Bruno Fernandes enough to win a relatively uneventful game.
Key battle zone
Manchester United more often than not build their attacks down the left wing, something that has only increased since Paul Pogba’s injury; only Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, who lean heavily on Zaha and Jack Grealish, favour the left side more than United’s 43%. With Daniel James lacking conviction on the right wing, we can anticipate Marcus Rashford versus Joel Ward being the game’s most important battle.
Andros Townsend will undoubtedly work hard to get back and double up on Rashford, but during long periods of Man Utd possession there is a danger that space will open on this side as Luke Shaw overlaps.
Keep an eye on… Hodgson’s team selection
Roy Hodgson decided not to play Jean-Philippe Mateta, or even bring him off the bench, in the 0-0 draw with Fulham despite Palace’s new striker scoring in the previous game against Brighton. On Wednesday Mateta, who netted seven times in 15 games in the Bundesliga before his January transfer, should get a run out alongside Christian Benteke in the manager’s preferred 4-4-2.
But Eberichi Eze started up front against Fulham in the hope he would fill Zaha’s shoes, and he may be given another chance here despite failing to score. Aside from which forward to pick, Hodgson has to decide between a 4-4-2 and a 4-5-1, with the latter the safer option but the former offering a greater chance of scoring on the counter-attack.
One to watch… Bruno Fernandes
It is quite incredible just how big an influence Bruno Fernandes has on the United team; without exception, when he plays well, Man Utd win and when he goes missing, they do not. His 25 Premier League goal contributions (goals and assists) account for 47% of the club’s total outlay this season. As Chelsea found at the weekend, if you can keep the ball away from Fernandes United don’t stand much chance of scoring. Unfortunately for Crystal Palace they will probably end up dropping too deep, therefore providing Fernandes with the space to dictate the play.
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