Manchester United begin the 2020/21 league season at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday evening. It has been a month since we completed the extended 2019/20 season with our final competitive game being 2-1 defeat against Sevilla in the UEFA Europa League semi finals.
United are back in action a week later than most other teams in the league having been given the guaranteed break in order to have a pre-season. Palace have already begun their season with a 1-0 victory over Southampton last Saturday courtesy of a Wilfried Zaha goal, who will be a main threat against United. We did compete in a pre-season friendly last weekend against Aston Villa, which we did lose 1-0 but it was seen as giving players game time in preparation for the season ahead.
Though United have had an extra week’s preparation whose summer break lasted a mere one month and 3 days, it is a quick turn around for Ole’s men. It is expected that United needs to hit the ground running in the upcoming campaign and with a third placed finish last season, we will be looking to close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool.
United go into the opening game of the season having been unbeaten in the last 14 league games with defeat coming back in January when we had lost to Burnley 2-0 at Old Trafford. The form of Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood will be key and hopefully they can carry on the exciting form they produce in their run to third place in the previous campaign. It will be exciting to see new signing Donny Van Beek who brings more depth to the squad.
We will be looking to avenge the 2-1 defeat from last season at Old Trafford when Patrick van Aanholt netted in the 93rd minute that stunned the Old Trafford faithful. United have come a long way since that third game into the season and we will be confident going into this game against the Eagles.
Teams: Manchester United vs Crystal Palace
Date: September 19th 2020 (Saturday)
KO Time: 17:30 BST
Competition: Premier League
Stadium: Old Trafford
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Managers: Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Roy Hodgson
United are still without Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe who is still recovering from their injuries, which has meant that youth player Teden Mengi has been training with the first team. Ole said of Mengi during the pre-match press conference, “Teden’s jumped up. He’ll probably play some Under-23s games this season, when it’s possible for him. He needs games at that stage regularly. But he’s done absolutely brilliantly in training and he came on for half an hour against Villa and didn’t put a foot wrong. He’s with us every single day.”
It will be interesting to see the starting eleven that Ole’s chooses as players have varying levels of fitness with some players being on international duty and Paul Pogba having recovered from covid-19. Ole said of the fitness levels, “The players are at different stages. Mentally, I think everyone’s ready. Physically, they’re at a different stage, some of them have played more games than others. So we’ll have to be clever and good about when to play players because we know this period now, until the first international, is a hugely important one.”
Ole was asked during the press conference how new signing Donny Van Beek has been getting on and whether he may start against Palace, ““The players are at different stages,” confirmed the manager. “Mentally, I think everyone’s ready. Physically, they’re at a different stage, some of them have played more games than others. So we’ll have to be clever and good about when to play players because we know this period now, until the first international, is a hugely important one.”
Ole was also very critical of England and the FA over the call up of Mason Greenwood as he felt he needs a rest after a fantastic breakthrough season, “I have to be honest enough to say I tried my best to give him a rest over the summer. The club asked specifically – we pointed out he should have had a rest. He needs in mentally and physically after that season he had. First thing that happens is, one he’s called up, two he’s right there in the press. We’ve done whatever we can to protect him and I will keep on helping him. I know that when he comes back into the daily routine of the club and what we do to him – he’ll be fine.”
Ole was asked what message he would like to say to the fans ahead of the new season with United fans on social media showing discontent over the lack of signings, “fans will always want the best possible team to watch, the best possible Man United team. That’s the passion we want. With the history we’ve had, we can look back 10/20 years, you look back at the great players we’ve had. Since Sir Alex left we’ve been averaging fifth, but last year we got third which was a big step forward. Everyone saw the development in the team with Bruno [Fernandes] coming in, Harry [Maguire] being the captain and really showing leadership skills on the pitch and off the pitch. Aaron [Wan-Bissaka] did really well. We want to take a step forward and we want to develop. We want to go into the season with confidence, but we’re always looking to give the group a boost. We’re working on it.”
There is a great anticipation ahead for the game against Palace and to see how well United perform and obviously get off to the best possible start with a win as Ole said, “We’re as ready as we can be.”
As for our opponents Palace, there will be without four key defenders with Gary Cahill, James Tomkins, Nathan Ferguson and Patrick van Aanholt, who had picked up an injury against the Reds when playing at Selhurst Park. Palace will have the attacking threat of Wilfried Zaha who will cause a few problems for us. Hodgson revealed to the Palace website that they are starting to get players from injury with Mamadou Sakho, Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham may not feature against United.
Manchester United are undefeated in their last 14 Premier League matches.
Marcus Rashford has scored one goal and provided three assists across his previous three starts against Crystal Palace.
United has won more penalties in the league than any other side in each of the previous two seasons, averaging 13 each campaign and breaking the record last season for the most awarded in a single campaign.
United have begun the Premier League at Old Trafford 16 times and have won 12 of these games, drew three and only lost one game and have not lost an opening day fixture since their 1-2 defeat against Swansea in 2014.
Predicted Lineup: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Van De Beek, Pogba, Fernandes, Greenwood, Rashford and Martial
We are going into the new season with much renewed confidence having secured third place and Champions League qualification from last season. The addition of Donny Van Beek from Ajax brings more depth into the side and it remains to be seen whether we will have any more additions to the squad or even outgoings before the transfer. Solskjaer will have a near full strength squad to choose from, which is more than capable of seeing off Palace, who will be without a number of key players.
Hopefully, the front three of Martial, Rashford and Greenwood will carry on from where they left off and will be banging in the goals with Bruno Fernandes providing the creativity and linking up the play between the midfield and the forward line.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace