Crystal Palace vs Manchester United Preview

Wayne Rooney has been in fine form recently.
Crystal Palace and Manchester United battle it out for England's oldest trophy - the FA Cup
FA Cup Final | Saturday 21 May | Wembley Stadium | 18:00

The scene is set for another classic domestic cup final as Europa League certainties Manchester United lock horns with unlikely FA Cup finalists Crystal Palace.

It’s been a season of contrasting fortunes for the two clubs, yet the entire Premier League and indeed all form can be disregarded as the trophy hopefuls head for the glamour of Wembley Stadium. Manchester United are undoubtedly better prepared for a match of this magnitude but their counterparts will be intent on setting the cat amongst the pigeons.


To Win (90mins)
Crystal Palace 7/2
Draw 47/20
Manchester United 8/10

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace have had a largely forgettable 2016 apart from their exploits in this competition. Labelling their league experience this year as forgettable is quite possibly an understatement given their woeful record and plummet down the league table. The London club have recorded a mere two wins in the league since the 19th of December and at one stage went 14 matches without three points. Yet as their Premier League form crumbled, a series of impressive performances in challenging FA Cup matches ensured that they booked their spot in Wembley’s showpiece.


Wilfried Zaha will look to haunt his former club this weekend.

Crystal Palace were pitted against fellow Premier League opposition in all but the quarter-final, sealing a late 2-0 win against Reading with goals from Yohan Cabaye and Fraizer Campbell in the closing stages. Their third round encounter with Southampton back in January - a tie falling just as Palace’s awful league run was becoming a talking point - was secured 2-1 away from home. Southampton’s recent surge towards the Europa League illustrates that the victory was no mean feat. The following match against Stoke was won 1-0 due to a Wilfried Zaha strike, before Palace travelled to Tottenham to bag a win by the same scoreline against all odds. 

Their late victory in Reading preceded a rather comfortable 2-1 victory over Watford, the ease of which was not quite reflected in the final result. As impressive as Palace’s run has been, they’ll need to not only be at their very best but also disregard other demoralising results if they hope to beat a Manchester United side notoriously difficult to overcome.



Manchester United

Louis van Gaal’s future at Manchester United is as yet undecided and those in the know are keeping tight-lipped on the subject. United’s failure to qualify for the Champions League - barring an unprecedented 19-goal victory over Bournemouth - is only part of the reason that van Gaal is under enormous pressure. It is the style of football that he employs at United that has come under the most scrutiny. Simply put, the Red Devils have been boring to watch, grinding out wins in lacklustre fashion and failing to make any headway in Europe. Ending a 12-year wait for an FA Cup trophy will not doubt bolster van Gaal’s chances of seeing out the final year of his contract, but it’s unlikely to be enough for a Manchester United board with loftier ambitions.


Marcus Rashford has been key for Man United since making his debut

United began their FA Cup campaign with an unsatisfying and unconvincing third-round victory over Sheffield United, 1-0. The Red Devils then ticked a few more boxes with a 3-1 victory away at then Championship hopefuls Derby County before a 3-0 win on the road at Shrewsbury Town. The club then faced their toughest opposition in West Ham and drew the match 1-1 at Old Trafford to set up a tricky replay at the Boleyn Ground. United prevailed in the replay 2-1 with goals from Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini. 

Their place in the Wembley showpiece event was settled in what could be considered one of the most exciting FA Cup semi-finals in recent memory and almost undoubtedly United’s standout fixture of the season. A pulsating affair against Everton looked set for a draw before Anthony Martial scored a fantastic goal deep into stoppage time to not only send United fans into ecstasy but provide no small amount of nostalgia for the Old Trafford faithful. Their form has been largely solid coming into this final and they deservedly enter the tie as favourites.

Probable line-ups:

Crystal Palace: 4-5-1
Speroni; Ward, Mariappa, Delaney, Souare; Cabaye, McArthur, Jedinak, Zaha, Bolasie; Adebayor.

Manchester United: 4-5-1
De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian; Carrick, Rooney, Mata, Lingard, Martial; Rashford

Betting Verdict: Man United Win + Over 1.5 Goals (13/10)
Although Crystal Palace probably had the tougher run to the final, as a club with a fair bit of quality in their ranks, they’ve drastically underperformed this season. Combine this with the fact that Palace haven’t beaten United since 1991 and the task becomes all the more unlikely. Manchester United are priced up at 8/10 for the straight win in 90 minutes and I feel this is good value considering head-to-head encounters between the clubs. However, for added value take the Matchbet + Totals bet for United to Win with Over 1.5 Goals scored in the match at 13/10.

Written by Rick John Henry.