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Starting XI: Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United

The Reds hope to get back to winning ways on Thursday


Everything that you need to know ahead of Thursday’s match:

(1) Manchester United must quickly regroup after the disappointment of squandering a chance to move up to third. Instead, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side now faces a trip to Selhurst Park needing all three points to keep pace in the race for the final Champions League spot.

(2) As many feared, Manchester City won their Financial Fair Play appeal and will escape a two-year ban from European competition. What does that mean for United? Fifth place will no longer be good enough to qualify for next season’s Champions League. It’s the top four or bust for the Reds.

(3) It’s not all bad news, though. While Manchester United have mostly cruised since the restart, both Chelsea and Leicester City have hit choppier form. Chelsea have already lost twice this month and, on Sunday, Leicester melted down in a 4-1 setback at Bournemouth. United, on the other hand, have taken great advantage of a relatively easy run-in.

(4) On Monday, Manchester United stumbled against Southampton. After a quick flurry of goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial pushed the Reds to a 2-1 first-half lead, three points looked a virtual certainty. Unfortunately, Michael Obafemi struck at the death to deprive United of the win and keep them in fifth with three matches left to go.

(5) Keep an eye on the left-back situation ahead of Thursday’s match. Both Luke Shaw (ankle) and Brandon Williams (gash on head) were forced off with injuries against Southampton. Neither will have much time to recover before the trip to Selhurst Park. Roy Hodgson could line Wilfried Zaha up on the right to take advantage of the situation.

(6) Ole on the Southampton setback and looking ahead to Crystal Palace:

That’s football. It is key moments. There are key moments in every game of football and that was a key moment. We will take it and move onto Thursday at Selhurst Park. It’s a game to focus on. This will be in the back of our heads tonight. We’re disappointed, but tomorrow it’s all heads on Crystal Palace.

(7) Crystal Palace apparently never got the message that the season was restarting. Since winning at Bournemouth in their first game back, Palace have lost five straight in abject fashion. Their good work pre-pandemic ensures the club a mid-table finish, but this current form is that of a relegation candidate.

(8) As such, there have been rumblings of a possible change in leadership at Selhurst Park. Despite signing a new one-year contract in March, Roy Hodgson might be on his way out. During the lockdown, rumors linked Burnley’s Sean Dyche with a move to London — although it’s unclear whether that would be this summer or in the future after Hodgson retires. In either case, it would be a cracking move as Dyche has long deserved a chance at a bigger club like Crystal Palace.

(9) Crystal Palace’s 2-0 loss on Sunday at Aston Villa was bad enough, but some after-the-final-whistle antics from Christian Benteke will hurt the club for the rest of the season. A post-match scuffle with a Villa defender earned the Belgian striker a red card and a suspension for the final three matches of 2019/20. Hodgson called Benteke’s actions “inexcusable”.

(10) Although Benteke has struggled this season, Crystal Palace need all the attacking help they can get. They’re second last in the Premier League with just 30 goals scored and are now down to just Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha as credible goal threats. Thursday looks like an excellent opportunity for Manchester United to pick up their fourth clean sheet since the restart.

(11) Despite the slip-up on Monday, Manchester United must still be considered a strong favorite to finish in the top four. Take a look at all three clubs’ remaining fixtures: