Four managers and eight years have gone by since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, but Manchester United are still in search of the ever-elusive success. As Jim Proudfoot rightly said, United’s pressing need for change was the cause to call the godfather of the Gegenpress, and so it is as Manchester United confirmed the appointment of Ralf Rangnick as the new interim manager. His advent has been met with much excitement and anticipation, as a new era dawns at the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday, with the German coach taking charge of the Red Devils for the very first time. Man United welcomes Crystal Palace to Old Trafford in the 15th Gameweek of 2021/22 Premier League season, and it will be a spectacle with everyone’s attention.
The legendary German’s arrival has been much awaited ever since the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and Sunday’s game is set to be the first time he takes charge of the English giants. Rangnick has been tasked with rejuvenating and reinvigorating a team filled with talented superstars, capable of challenging for silverware in the toughest of competitions. Wednesday night’s win against Arsenal provided some relief to the beleaguered fans and kept the Red Devils in the hunt for the fourth Champions League spot. Their next fixture against Crystal Palace will provide yet another new test for the men in Red, and it remains to see how the players- under new tutelage- perform. A win would see United go level on points with West Ham United in 4th, and more importantly, give them a boost in the hopes of capturing the final Champions League spot.
Crystal Palace enter into this game on the back of a 1-0 loss against Leeds United at Elland Road, and the Eagles will feel hard done by, conceding a penalty in the stoppage time. That loss meant that Palace have not won a game since their 2-0 win against Wolves in early November, and they will come to Old Trafford with hopes of breaking that streak and getting a huge scalp in the process. Patrick Viera will hope that his side can make it two wins in Manchester, having defeated City in October, and make it three consecutive wins at Old Trafford in three seasons.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Date: Sunday, 5th December 2021.
Time: 2.00 pm BST.
Venue: Old Trafford, Greater Manchester.
Referee: Craig Pawson.
Assistants: Lee Betts, Scott Ledger.
Fourth official: Jonathan Moss.
VAR: Simon Hooper.
Assistant VAR: Derek Eaton.
All eyes will be on Rangnick’s team selection for Sunday, with much debates and discussions carried out over which United players will fit his playing style. The Red Devils will be without French duo Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba, with both of them still recovering from their respective injuries. Nemanja Matic started against Chelsea last weekend, but missed out against Arsenal in the midweek with a hamstring issue and remains unlikely to be included in the squad on Sunday. Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani has missed out on the last 5 games and remains a doubt ahead of Palace’s visit.
Fullbacks Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw were both unavailable against Arsenal, with Shaw out since he suffered a head injury against Watford. Wan-Bissaka suffered a hand injury against Chelsea and sat out the win in the midweek, but is in contention to be selected for Sunday. His right-back spot has come under threat, with Dalot impressing there on Wednesday night and it remains to see who Rangnick goes with against Palace.
For Crystal Palace, defender Nathan Ferguson remains sidelined alongside long-term absentee Eberechi Eze. James McArthur is also expected to miss out on the trip to Manchester. Joel Ward is unavailable for selection after picking up five yellow cards, and hence having to serve a one-game suspension. There is some good news for Palace fans, however, with defender Joachim Andersen likely to return to the squad, after recovering from a hamstring injury and could feature at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Can Rangnick help steady United’s home record?
Manchester United have had a topsy-turvy season so far, and what started with a dominating 5-1 win against Leeds United at home, has not panned out the way fans would have hoped. They have not been assertive enough on the pitch, and have been criticized for playing in a rather passive manner. Their home record is evidence, with 3 losses and a draw from 7 games played in the league there. Midweek’s win against Arsenal was just the 3rd of the league so far at home, and new interim manager
Ralf Rangnick stressed on the need to improve their home record in his first press conference. The German has stated that he intends to better the club and the team in every way possible, and a win on Sunday in front of their 75,000 beloved fans would be the best first step.
Visiting teams like Man City, Liverpool, Everton and others so far have been the better team at Old Trafford. They have dominated United on their own turf, and Crystal Palace will have taken courage from the fact. Palace have a very good team, and can prove to be very tricky opponents. They have a decent record at Old Trafford in the recent years, unbeaten in their past 3 games and winning their last two fixtures with a scoreline of 1-3. It remains to see how Patrick Viera sets his team up, but Palace will hurt United if given the opportunity, and Rangnick will have to remain wary of the threat they possess.
Can the Eagles take advantage of United’s defensive woes?
Manchester United have been very poor in defense, and their frailties at the back have been repeatedly exposed by the other teams. They have suffered heavy losses to teams like Watford, Leicester and Liverpool and have rarely kept a cleansheet so far in the league. They are currently on a miserable run of 12 league games without a cleansheet at Old Trafford, which highlights their abysmal defensive record. United had hoped the addition of Raphael Varane would make their defense much more harder to break down, but his time in Manchester has been haunted by injuries so far. However, unsurprisingly enough, United have kept their 2 cleansheet this season only when the Frenchman has played, further showing how important he is to their defense.
Palace have been proficient in attack and have punished opposition whenever they have been given the chance. Conor Gallagher has been their standout performer in attack and has created plenty of chances while also scoring goals himself. Patrick Viera has overseen an overturn in their playing style since his arrival at the club, and the Eagles are much more of an attacking side then they were before. Some brilliant additions to their forward line, like Edouard and the above-mentioned Gallagher has improved their output to some level, although there is still a lot of room to improve.
Seeing their recent defensive issues, Viera will no doubt be looking to put out an attacking line-up. He will hope to get an early lead and then sit back and hit the Red Devils on the counter, in which they have looked so vulnerable and easy to break down. For now, it remains to see if Rangnick’s arrival sees an improvement in United defense.
The Portuguese magician was back on the scoresheet in the midweek game against Arsenal, in what was his 100th appearance for the Red Devils. He has amassed 45 goals and 32 assists in that time, and his impact ever since he arrived in Manchester has been surreal. He has been the player that has made things happen and has dragged them to wins on many occasions now. His display against Arsenal was not his best, but he was always available all over the pitch and his commitment and passion was faultless. He has stepped up whenever asked, and after going 9 league games without scoring- his longest goal drought for the club- he broke that streak on Wednesday night with a well taken goal. He should again be the key man for new manager Ralf Rangnick and will be the one to watch out for on Sunday.
The Chelsea-loanee had a decent season with West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League last season, and that earned him another loan move to Crystal Palace for this season. So far, he has proved that signing him was a stroke of genius, and has showcased his talent whenever given the opportunity. He has established himself as a regular starter under Patrick Viera and he must be hoping that Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has noticed his displays. He is the joint-top goalscorer for the Eagles, with 4 goals and 3 assists so far, and Viera’s attacking style is perfectly suiting the young Englishman’s playing style. His versatility in the midfield has greatly benefited Palace, with the 21-year-old capable of playing as a right-midfielder, central midfielder or his preferred position which is just off the striker. He has a capable and talented support staff of Edouard, Benteke, and Zaha which has made it easier for him to create chances. Gallagher, along with former Red Devil Wilfried Zaha will be the ones to look out for from this Palace side on Sunday.
Manchester United predicted lineup: David de Gea; Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles; Scott McTominay, Fred; Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Cristiano Ronaldo.
Crystal Palace predicted lineup: Vicente Guaita; James Tomkins, Joachim Andersen, Marc Guehi, Tyrick Mitchell; Conor Gallagher, Luka Milivojevic, Cheikhou Kouyate; Jordan Ayew, Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha.