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Three talking points as Manchester United eased past a hapless Crystal Palace

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Crystal Palace’s miserable start to the new Premier League season extended to seven successive defeats on Saturday afternoon as Manchester United eased to another three points at Old Trafford.

It took all of four minutes for the hosts to breach Palace’s leaky defence, with Marcus Rashford putting on a sublime show of skill before pulling the ball back for Juan Mata to slot into the corner.

Marouane Fellaini scored either side of the half-time break on his return to put United in complete cruise control and Romelu Lukaku topped things off late on with his seventh league goal of the year.

The result sees United return to the top of the Premier League table ahead of Manchester City – for a few hours at least – whilst Palace remain rooted to the bottom, now five points away from safety.

Where can Crystal Palace turn things around?

Without wanting to sound like a broken record, Crystal Palace are in a crisis.

We may only be seven games into the new Premier League season but the warning signs are doing more than just flashing around Selhurst Park after seven straight defeats and 630 minutes of top-flight football without a goal, and it’s hard to see how they can stop their worrying downward spiral.

Just like last weekend on the other side of Manchester they showed brief signs of life, but their glaring lack of cutting edge – not helped by a lengthy injury list – leaves them toothless in attack.

The fault for this lies firmly in the summer recruitment – or lack of – and you can argue that the Eagles shouldn’t have expected anything else from their start with just the one recognised forward in their ranks.

Hodgson will just be wanting this wretched run of fixtures to finish and will no doubt be relieved after the visit to Chelsea, so then he can start to truly assess his side against those also in the bottom-half.

United’s strength in depth is a threat

Another game, another three points as far as Manchester United were concerned as they recorded their sixth Premier League win of the season – and fourth in a row at Old Trafford – against Crystal Palace.

It was as efficient as it was effortless on Saturday afternoon, with Mourinho’s men barely having to get into second gear as they remarkably recorded their fourth 4-0 victory in just seven league games.

And there’s a real sense of anticipation growing around Salford that something special could happen this season, in part down to the strength in depth that the United manager now has at his disposal.

Mourinho is able to rotate at will – a huge plus considering their midweek exploits in the Champions League – and Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini and Marcus Rashford were all drafted back into the side on Saturday after being omitted from the starting eleven for the routine victory against CSKA Moscow in the week.

It was this trio that posed the visitors the most problems too, with Mata scoring on what was his 200th appearance in the Premier League, Fellaini finding the net twice and Rashford grabbing two assists.

Tougher tests will come when they eventually face their top-six rivals but, for now, it seems that United have two players readily available for each position – and it’s this depth that’s helped their rampant start.

Could Ashley Young be undergoing the Antonio Valencia transformation?

When former manager Louis van Gaal first tried Antonio Valencia in a right-back role, most Manchester United supporters would have wondered what on earth the Dutchman was drinking.

The Ecuadorian international was known for his lung-busting runs to the by-line, looking to outpace the defender, thrash a ball across the area and hope that a teammate would gamble on the end of it.

Yet three years down the line and it’s clear to see that this was an inspired decision by Van Gaal, going down as part of his legacy at Old Trafford, and it’s possible that a similar transformation could be in the offing as Ashley Young continues his fine run of displays at left-back over the past month.

Options on the left side of the United defence have been slim for Jose Mourinho as a result of Luke Shaw’s ongoing injury struggles and, with the fixture list already building up after their return to the Champions League, the Portuguese tactician turned to Young – a man he used at the back last year.

And it’s fair to say he’s slotted back in there seamlessly, developing the defensive side of his game well whilst still carrying the potent threat from crosses that he has possessed throughout his career.

His delivery was spot on against Palace on Saturday, supplying a pinpoint ball to the back post for Fellaini to tap home a second, and he could the latest top-flight midfielder to thrive in a brand-new position.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha should resist move away from Selhurst Park

The Ivorian winger has been key for the Eagles this season.

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Wilfried Zaha
Photo: Getty Images

Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha delivered yet another superb performance this weekend, scoring a crucial brace in Palace’s 3-2 win against Brighton.

In typical fashion, following his impressive showing, many have speculated that Zaha is far too good for this Palace team and should depart Selhurst Park in the summer.

However, Zaha should resist such urges and remain at Palace, where he will shine in the spotlight as their main man and bring top-half success to the Eagles.

The most recent rumours in the Times have linked the Ivorian with a switch to Tottenham Hotspur, but his 2013 transfer to Manchester United should prove a convincing deterrent against the move to north London.

Five years ago, Zaha swapped Palace for the allure of United, eager to become a star for the Red Devils. He signed a five-and-a-half-year deal at Old Trafford, but his time in Manchester was an abject failure.

The winger only made two league appearances for United, registering zero goals, before falling out of favour with David Moyes and being loaned out to Cardiff City. Just a season later, he was back at Crystal Palace.

(Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

This big money debacle reveals that Zaha struggles when inserted into a situation where he is not a guaranteed starter. His game thrives off of confidence, trickery, and flair; it is no coincidence his best years have come at Palace, a club that genuinely loves and appreciates him.

And, it seems the feeling is mutual.

Zaha prominently spoke this week about his intense desire to beat Brighton and silence their supporters, illustrating the winger’s cult status and loyalty to the Eagles.

For the 25-year-old, the perfect decision would be to remain at Selhurst Park this summer. Roy Hodgson will be given funds to shape the team in his image, and could easily reproduce his success at Fulham, where he inspired the Whites to a seventh-placed finish and a Europa League final.

With Zaha leading the way as the star man, the ceiling could be the limit next season for the Eagles.

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Crystal Palace

Could Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic be the perfect man for Crystal Palace?

The Croatian striker scored twice in Juventus’ Champions League win over Real Madrid.

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Mario Mandzukic
Photo: Getty Images

31-year-old Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic turned back the clock on Wednesday night with a remarkable two-goal display against defending European champions Real Madrid.

If Crystal Palace maintain their Premier League status, then Mandzukic could prove the perfect man to solve their striker problems.

In the days leading up to the match, reports in Italian outlet Tuttosport, as referenced by Football Italia and Goal in Germanyhad linked the Croatian striker with a transfer to the Chinese Super League, claiming that Juventus were prepared to let him leave in the summer.

Yet the experienced striker has shown he still possesses the quality to perform at the highest level, evidenced by his dominating quarterfinal display. Two first-half towering headers revealed the forward’s predatory instincts, ability to latch on to crosses, and knack for powerful finishes.

A move to China, in essence still a glorified amateur league, would represent a dramatic step down for Mandzukic far too soon in his career. Only in his early 30s, the striker still has a number of productive seasons left in the tank and can adapt his game to accommodate his age.

Mario Mandzukic

His arrival at Selhurst Park would fill the gap that the Eagles have had at centre-forward for a number of years. The misfiring Christian Benteke has failed to impress this term, passing up many a golden opportunity.

Mandzukic would add a lethal touch to the multitude of crosses Roy Hodgson’s side tend to swing in, benefiting from Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha’s wicked deliveries.

Although the transfer may appear ridiculous, to begin with, Palace have a proud recent history of signing players from Europe’s top clubs. Yohan Cabaye joined from Paris Saint Germain, Mamadou Sakho and Benteke joined from Liverpool, and Jairo Riedewald was brought in from Ajax.

The acquisition of Mandzukic would be a brilliant coup for the Eagles and propel them to the upper half of the table next season.

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£28 million difference, but Crystal Palace would much prefer Glenn Murray

Christian Benteke has flopped at Crystal Palace this season, with just two goals compared to Murray’s 13 with Brighton.

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Crystal Palace suffered defeat at the hands of Liverpool in the Premier League yesterday, in what was a tight affair. A late goal from Mohamed Salah proved the difference, as Liverpool claimed a 2-1 victory. If only a former Liverpool player could have had a better day at the office, Palace might have taken all three points.

Christian Benteke’s poor form continued for the Eagles. He missed two golden opportunities to score in a game where the margins were considerably fine. The exasperation in team-mate Wilfried Zaha’s face made it clear what he felt of the Belgian’s wastefulness.

Palace fans are probably wishing they had a much less heralded and much cheaper former striker up front instead of Benteke.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – MARCH 04: Glenn Murray of Brighton and Hove Albion during the Premier League match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Arsenal at Amex Stadium on March 4, 2018 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Whilst yesterday was not his best day, Glenn Murray has been outstanding for rivals Brighton and Hove Albion this season. The 34-year-old has scored 13 goals in 34 games for the Seagulls this season. Benteke meanwhile has just two in 26 – an abysmal record for a striker with his price-tag.

Palace paid a fee in the region of £32 million to bring the Belgian to Selhurst Park back in 2016, as reported by Sky Sports. A year previously Palace had sold Murray to Bournemouth in a £4 million deal, according to BBC Sport. A difference of £28 million which, quite frankly, is laughable considering the comparable seasons of the pair.

Looking back with hindsight it is easy to see that Palace should have kept hold of Murray that summer. Now back with Brighton he has been a phenomenon this season whilst Benteke, at times, has been a phantom.

during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on March 31, 2018 in London, England.

If Palace had the chance to trade them right now for the relegation run-in, make no mistake, the £32 million striker would be sent packing his bags down the M23 to Sussex.

Palace need the Belgian to start firing if they are going to survive an extremely tight looking relegation battle in the Premier League. He does not need to look far for inspiration. If Benteke can find anything near the form Murray has exhibited this campaign, then Palace will have no trouble staying up whatsoever.

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