It was over a year ago now but Manchester United actually lost last time we hosted Saturday’s opponents Crystal Palace.
The United side Roy Hodgson managed to beat last August is very different – in terms of confidence, personnel and gameplan – to the one he will come up against this weekend.
Hodgson has already stoked the fire with his comments about Mason Greenwood’s early exit from the England squad.
“When you make a mistake as big as he made, you should be expecting to pay a price for that,” the former England boss said, as per talkSPORT.
“If you’re old enough to come in and hold down a regular spot at United and called up for England, I’m afraid you have to produce the level of behaviour that is required at that level.”
It has been a tricky couple of weeks for Greenwood and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces a decision to make over whether to play him against Palace.
Perhaps Hodgson’s comments will provide some extra motivation for Greenwood, who was still a bit-part player breaking through the last time Palace came to Old Trafford.
He came on for Jesse Lingard after 56 minutes of that defeat, but has plainly usurped the 27-year-old in the United pecking order since then.
Speaking to the BBC after that August match, Hodgson offered some insight into his approach to beating United.
“We kept Manchester United in front of us for very long periods. We had to make certain that they did not get the balls into the areas where they would punish us too severely.
“They will be surprised if teams are going to be coming here and giving them the chance to counter-attack. That would be a recipe for disaster for most teams.
“Teams in the lower half – if they put up the fight like we did today they will be hard to break down. That is what they have to prepare for at Old Trafford.”
Those spoiling tactics may well have worked last season, but along with Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek have been introduced to the United midfield since then.
If Palace sit deep and hand United possession for large swathes of the match again, that extra creativity should make it much tougher for Palace to keep us out.
It has been said so many times that Bruno has transformed United. In real terms, his biggest contribution has been making matches against sides in the lower reaches of the table more routine.
Now with van de Beek around to share the creative and goalscoring burden, United are a different prospect for Hodgson to deal with this season.
That said, Palace might line up differently as well this time around. They played a conservative 4-5-1 in August 2019, but have gone into this season with a 4-4-2 formation.
Hodgson said to Palace’s official website about the shift, “It’s good to have the two options [4-4-2 and 4-3-3]. Our principles are exactly the same no matter what system we play.
“Nothing changes in terms of our principles. It is just a question of making sure you have the players on the field you really want to be there.”
What the comments there indicate that even if it’s a 4-4-2, theoretically handing United numerical superiority in midfield, this will still be classic Hodgson.
A compact, disciplined system focused around limiting space before trying to spring behind United on the counter attack.
United are better equipped to deal with that this season than last, but must be clinical in front of goal in order to avoid another shock result like last season’s.
Manchester United fixtures after the international break
- Newcastle United (A)
October 17 – 3pm
- PSG (A)
October 20 – 8pm
- Chelsea (H)
October 24 – 5.30pm
- RB Leipzig (H)
October 28 – 8pm
- Arsenal (H)
November 1 – 6.30pm
- Istanbul Basaksehir (A)
November 4- 5.55pm
- Everton (A)
November 7 – 3pm
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