Everything that you need to know ahead of Saturday’s match:
(1) Manchester United kick off the 2020/21 Premier League season on Saturday — one week later than most of their domestic opponents. Owing to United’s deep run in the Europa League (which ended just a little over a month ago), their opening weekend trip to Burnley was postponed until later in the season.
(2) Last weekend, Manchester United lost 1-0 at Aston Villa in their only preseason match of the summer. Afterwards, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named new signing Donny van de Beek as his side’s standout performer:
He’s such a finder of space and creates time for himself with his timing and movement. I was very happy with his performance.
(3) Of course, that was far from a first-choice Manchester United side. Due to international duty, key players like Bruno Fernandes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelöf, Fred, Nemanja Matić, Anthony Martial, David de Gea, and Mason Greenwood missed the trip to Villa Park and only returned to Carrington at the start of this week.
(4) Although the Jadon Sancho rumor mill continues to churn, Manchester United will likely open the new season with Donny van de Beek as the only senior signing. But, while supporters surely hoped for a busier offseason in the transfer market, van de Beek could be just what the doctor ordered for United’s midfield. The 23-year-old Ajax star seemed destined for a move to Real Madrid earlier this year, but the Reds swooped in with a £35 million deal once those talks broke down.
(5) Ajax CEO — and Manchester United legend — Edwin van der Sar on the newest Red:
He can play in different positions in midfield. He can be a six or an eight or a ten. He has a great eye for a goal, his technique is brilliant, and he can go box to box. I presume he’s had a talk with Ole and they’ve talked about different positions [he will play]. He’s multi-functional and he can play a little bit deeper, which I think is his preferred role.
(6) Paul Pogba, who only returned to training last week after a bout with COVID-19, looks doubtful for Saturday. He wasn’t ready for the Aston Villa friendly and likely needs a little more time to build match fitness before returning to action. If Pogba can’t go, expect Scott McTominay to partner van de Beek in midfield.
(7) Another big question is the status of Mason Greenwood. After being sent home from the England national team due to coronavirus-related indiscretions, the 18-year-old might face a spell in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s doghouse. On the other hand, Harry Maguire seems to have weathered his own offseason controversy without any lasting ill effects, so perhaps all will be quickly forgiven with Greenwood as well.
(8) Against all odds, Wilfried Zaha remains at Crystal Palace. It seems like he’s been headed for the Selhurst Park exit door for years now, but Palace keep finding a way to hang onto him. Good thing, too. Zaha scored the only goal in Crystal Palace’s 1-0 win over Southampton last weekend, providing one of the few sparks of life in Roy Hodgson’s side. Three points are three points, but Palace labored throughout the match with just 29% possession and only 51%(!) pass completion. Dreadful stuff.
Wilfried Zaha has now been involved in 6️⃣0️⃣ Premier League goals for Crystal Palace— Goal (@goal) September 12, 2020
Let’s see what transpires. For me, hopefully nothing. I’m enjoying working with Wilf and I’m expecting him to know that we can’t let him go until someone comes in and wants to buy him. The fact is that every transfer window I’ve been involved in, Wilf has made noises that he would like to play for a club that plays in the Champions League. But, for anything to happen, a club has got to come along and pay the market price. We’re expecting him to accept the situation for what it is and keep playing his best football.
(10) Crystal Palace’s possession problems continued in Tuesday night’s loss at Bournemouth in the League Cup. A mostly second-choice side mustered only 37% possession and were outshot 17-4 by their Championship opponents. The match ended 0-0, but Bournemouth advanced after a marathon 11-10 penalty shootout.
(11) Other than keeping hold of Zaha, much of Crystal Palace’s hopes for the new season fall onto Eberechi Eze. Hodgson signed the England U21 attacking midfielder for £19.5 million in an attempt to take some of the goal-scoring pressure off of Jordan Ayew. The 22-year-old Eze scored 14 goals last season for Queens Park Rangers in the Championship and Palace could use every single one of those this season. Last year, they scored just 31 goals, which ranked second-worst in the Premier League.