Eye on the Opposition - Manchester Utd vs Crystal Palace (30.09.2017)

Written by Jack Pierce

Hot on the heels of a drubbing from Manchester City, Palace now head up to Manchester for a visit to Old Trafford. Here's Jack with his Eye on the Opposition...

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Two trips to Manchester in consecutive weekends. Two thrashings in consecutive weekends?

It may well be on the cards.

Fresh off the back of a 5-0 thumping in the blue half of the city, Roy Hodgson has had to gather his group of players to make the same journey but this time to the red half. I'm not sure how such a combination of fixtures is arranged but when you're in the sort of form that our lot are, it's far from ideal. Then again, you could argue it's better to get them out of the way at this stage of the season.

United look up for it this season. While they won two major trophies and secured a return to the Champions League last season, there were question marks over whether Jose Mourinho still had it within him to inspire the Old Trafford club to challenge for the Premier League and perhaps even Europe's biggest prize, the Champions League, too. Too often did they chuck away points in games where, with the quality at their disposal, they shouldn't have. Multiple homes games ended in frustration as visitors left with a point. United never really got going in the league because of the frequency of dropping points and were never involved in the title race. It looks like it'll be a different story this time around.

The summer business looks like it's made an instant impact. Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku look like they've been playing in the red of United for years. Both Premier League experienced and aware of the challenges the league presents but new signings hitting the ground isn't guaranteed so Mourinho will be pleased that both the arrivals, from Chelsea and Everton respectively, have settled so quickly. Lukaku in particular has made a wonderful start to this United career. Up till now, he's only failed to score in one of his United appearances, and you'd think it'll be a fair bet he won't go without on Saturday.

Mourinho himself looks a little cheerier this term in comparison to last season. He's still his miserly self on occasion but the smile and charm that created the Mourinho that the media love has been a little more forthcoming this season. No surprise that is the case when his side are offering the types of performance they currently are. Known for bringing success to his clubs in his second season as manager, the opportunity to maintain such a pattern is there this season. Their city rivals do look impressive but Mourinho has previously beaten Pep Guardiola over the league season marathon when his Real Madrid side won La Liga ahead of Guardiola's Barcelona. It only happened the once but Mourinho will be able to call upon that experience if anyone doubts he's capable of outsmarting the Manchester City boss.

It might not even be the end of September yet but all signs point to United being the real deal this season and title contenders on the varying fronts. Better defensively, more balanced in midfield, a constant goal threat and a manager who looks his old, hungry self; this United side could well be on the way to winning their first league title since Sir Alex Ferguson left the building.

There's little hope for a Palace win given the respective campaigns thus far and we don't even have Darren Ambrose to call upon on.

But still the Palace end will be full. Superb from each and every person in the away end come 3pm on Saturday.

Key Players

David de Gea

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The consistency of the Spanish goalkeeper is stunning. Week in, week out - de Gea is on top form offering those around him the confidence that behind them stands a keeper ready for almost anything.

Agile, fearless and happy to get moves started with very good distribution skills, de Gea is, for most, the best keeper in the league. He may well end up at Real Madrid in the next few seasons but until then, United fans should cherish one of the jewels in their crown.

Eric Bailly

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Despite returning two trophies to Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho was accused of not getting as much right as he should have done last campaign. One thing he certainly did get right was the signing of the centre back, Bailly. Impressive at Villarreal but a little raw at times, the Ivorian defender grew into one of the most consistent centre halves in the league last season after he arrived from La Liga.

Strong and fast with impeccable timing in the tackle, Bailly remained United one consistent within a regularly changing defence. Of the centre halves he has at his disposal, Mourinho appears to trust Bailly the most which is testament to the centre half's quality.

Romelu Lukaku

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A fairly obvious threat come kick off but at the moment it doesn't seem you can prevent the Belgian finding his way on to the scoresheet however you plan. His form since signing for United has been fantastic and an early indication that the £75 million paid will prove a shrewd investment.

Impressive in terms of goals scored for Everton last season, doubts did persist as to whether his overall game was of the quality to lead the line for one of the league's biggest clubs. Too often did his link up play let him and his Everton teammates down last season and he was often accused of not turning up in fixtures against those above The Toffees in the league.

Well, he's not had the opportunity to grab a game against a title rival by the neck yet but his overall game looks to have improved already in the short space of time at United. While our own Belgian striker looks shy of confidence, the same cannot be said for his international colleague.