Manchester United must now feel they have every opportunity of finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League, and will seek to maintain their challenge with victory over Crystal Palace.
Both clubs have FA Cup semi-finals at the weekend to look forward to, but United will desperate to follow up their unconvincing success over bottom club Aston Villa with another three points and increase the pressure on fourth-placed Arsenal, who play on Thursday. The gap between the sides now stands at four points, so anything dropped here would be a massive missed opportunity, and whether Louis van Gaal keeps his job or not may just hang on securing another season in Europe’s premier competition.
The Dutchman has had his many critics this season and most feel that he will indeed be on his way in the summer, but although the style of football he employs is not typical of Man Utd, he has adhered to tradition when it comes to introducing youngsters from the academy. Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have both impressed, but the jewel in the crown remains striker Marcus Rashford, who looked like a seasoned finisher when netting the winner against Villa.
With any lingering doubts over their Premier League safety surely extinguished by a fine draw at Arsenal on Sunday, the main focus of Crystal Palace’s attention is the Wembley showdown with Watford, but they will be keen not to just roll over here. This will probably serve as a chance for some fringe players to stake their claim and show that they are worthy of a place in the side, with competition for places existing especially in wide areas.
It was a huge bonus to pick up a point in North London as Yannick Bolasie showed what he is capable of as his stinging shot provided the equaliser. Before that it was a case of having to withstand constant Arsenal pressure and probing; concentration of the level they may need again here in order to emerge with something. This game may follow a similar pattern as United will likely control position, but Palace are always a threat on the break and will fancy themselves as a result.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is likely to miss the rest of the season for Man Utd, but they should have Ander Herrera back from a leg injury.
The visitors will make some changes to their starting XI, but remain without James McArthur, Marouane Chamakh, Dwight Gayle and Brede Hangeland.
Last Meeting: It was far from exhilarating, but Man Utd just about managed to claim a victory over a resolute Palace in November 2014 thanks to a goal from Juan Mata. The Spaniard fired in from just outside the penalty area shortly after coming on as a second half substitute, leaving visiting striker Fraizer Campbell to rue a missed chance before the interval when he lifted a shot over the crossbar.
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