With the conclusion of Michael Carrick‘s tenure as manager and surprisingly as part of the club now behind Manchester United, a new era begins at Old Trafford. United has found some success in their last three matches, winning two and drawing against the Premier League leaders at Stamford Bridge; they will look to continue their run against a Crystal Palace club that has lost their last two matches (Leads United and Aston Villa).
In terms of managerial style, Ralf Rangnick provides a much more tactical approach than the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Carrick, but with only a short period to train with the club, it is yet to be since how much of Rangnick’s system we will see on the pitch on Sunday.
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Manchester United were able to create several goal scoring opportunities during the midweek match against Arsenal, but still struggled in defence, conceding two more goals against the Gunners.
Now with Rangnick in charge, it will be interesting to see if the Devils will be able to capitalize on the high press and winning the ball high up the pitch. Fred has done well of late, and appears to have the type of motor Rangnick like to see out of his midfielders.
Still with plenty of opposition from fans and pundits, this match provides the Brazilian with a chance to cement his spot in the starting XI.
Since the departure of Solskjær, we have seen why the club spent nearly £73 million on Jadon Sancho. From scoring in Carrick’s first game as manager against Villarreal to establish Manchester United at the top of the group to proving a key pass to Fred for the Bruno Fernandes goal earlier this week, Sancho is making his presence felt.Embed from Getty Images
In terms of form from the United back line, we saw a much better performance against Arsenal from Harry Maguire and in addition the best performance from Diogo Dalot that we have seen arguably ever as a United right back.
Although Aaron Wan-Bissaka could return against Palace, Dalot, who was rumored to be on Solskjær’s bad side, has taken advantage of his opportunity to play while English right back has been out with a hand injury.
The club has been ravaged with injury lately and Rangnick will be forced to start his career at Manchester United without some of its key pieces. As of Saturday, the following players are expected to be unavailable against Crystal Palace: Edinson Cavani (tendon), Paul Pogba (thigh), and Raphael Varane (groin).
But in good news, we could see the return of three key defensive pieces: Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matić, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. While Shaw does not provide much defensively and Wan-Bissaka out of form lately, it is good to see some of the cornerstones back in training.
Mason Greenwood has yet to play since testing positive for COVID-19, but has been available on the bench the last two matches. It will be interesting to see if Rangnick, who historically favors young talent, breaks this streak against Palace.Embed from Getty Images
Team news from Crystal Palace centers around of Joachim Andersen and Joel Ward. Andersen is likely out with a thigh injury, and is said to be “day by day” and Ward is suspended after receiving 5 yellow cards this season.
Ones to Watch
While we typically feature players, how Ralf Rangnick and his team as a whole will be who every has their eyes on.
Much has been said about the plentiful individual talent Manchester United, even Rangnick himself in his Friday morning press conference, but there is no denying a lack of team chemistry lately, so the main focus will be if Rangnick will be able to bring that together in such a short time with the club.
With the arrival of a new boss, often times, this is an opportunity for players that have been buried in the depth chart a chance to start, the likes Donny van de Beek and Jesse Lingard come to mind.
Van de Beek, who receives thunderous roars from the home or traveling fan with every sub-on or touch is best positioned to show why he deserves his spot with the club. With the December transfers window looming, now is the chance for these players to showcase their talents or prepare a move away from the club.Embed from Getty Images
Not lost from the conversation of controversy, watch to see who Rangnick chooses to be between the posts. While many believe that it is still David De Gea‘s position to lose, there is a chance Rangnick would like to explore is younger and perhaps more promising keeper, Dean Henderson.
What makes this particularly interesting is Rangnick’s attendance in the match against Arsenal when De Gea went down following a corner kick and allowing an easy goal for Emile Smith-Rowe.
Many commentators believed that De Gea actions, since it appeared to not be a serious injury, deserved a proper reprimand by coaches and teammates, it will be intriguing to see if Rangnick felt the same.
Crystal Palace, who some say are much better than their 11th place spot on the Premier League table, will have two key players to watch for against Manchester United. The first being the more obvious, Wilfried Zaha, who always appears to bring his A-game agains United, and Conor Gallagher.
Gallagher, the Chelsea loanee, has provided Palace with a real spark in the midfield for Crystal Palace and currently sits in the 86th percentile of Non-Penalty Expected Goals plus xG Assisted amongst midfielders in the top 5 leagues.
Predicted Line-Up: 4-3-3
David de Gea
Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire (C), Luke Shaw;
Bruno Fernandes, Nemanja Matić, Fred;
Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford.
Beginning of a New Chapter
The Crystal Palace match is very winnable for Manchester United, despite the short amount of time Ralf Rangnick has had to implement his system. If Manchester United are able to channel the same confidence and tenacity they had against Arsenal, there is no reason why Manchester United should not walk away with three points, based on pure difference in talent alone.
It is important to remember that every Manchester United player will have a target on their back and for ever starting that cannot work with the diligence and precision that Rangnick expects, there is a chance it will be the next-man-up’s opportunity to gain a spot in the starting line-up.
Manchester United will not face a club that is currently higher on the table as them until January 22nd against West Ham United. This stretch of games that should allow the club to turn the season around, three points against Crystal Palace would be the first step to getting back to European football.