Manchester United will try to cut a seven-point gap to the top four when they host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday.
United are eighth, having lost four times already this season. The Red Devils haven’t been able to put a credible title challenge together thanks to a leaky defence and inconsistency in attack.
Palace are also desperate for points as Roy Hodgson’s squad is only above the bottom three on goal difference. The Eagles have found goals hard to come by, but they do have potential match-winners in the final third, notably ex-United winger Wilfried Zaha.
United are worthy favourites with the oddsmakers despite losing 3-1 away to leaders Manchester City last time out. Before then the Reds had taken 10 points from 12 in league action.
The goals of Anthony Martial had a lot to do with the winning run, but the Frenchman’s fitness is a concern ahead of the visit from Palace. Martial wasn’t in the recent France squad as he dealt with a hip problem.
Fortunately, both Martial and fellow Les Bleus international Paul Pogba could be fit to start on Saturday, per James Robson of the London Evening Standard. Pogba missed the defeat to City with a thigh injury, but his eye for a pass and Martial’s pace up top represent United’s best route to goal.
If Martial scores against Palace, he will match former United forwards Ruud van Nistelrooy, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo as players who found the net in at least six straight league games for the club, per Martin Tyler of Sky Sports.
Palace can counter United’s scoring potential with a big game from Zaha. The 26-year-old flopped at United after moving to Old Trafford from Palace in 2013, but he remains the Eagles’ attacking talisman.
Ironically, some believe the Red Devils miss the qualities Zaha can bring to matches:
Zaha’s trickery and the pace of fellow wide forward Andros Townsend could break a United defence culpable several times already this season. Jose Mourinho’s men have shipped 21 goals through 12 games.
Even so, a Palace side that’s scored just eight times is unlikely to fully exploit this weakness. Instead, the hosts will have enough quality up top to shade a close game.