The stage is set for Manchester United to make a statement of intent about their Premier League ambition with an emphatic win over newly-promoted Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.
The game, which is sandwiched between a loss to Liverpool at Anfield and a trip to city rivals Manchester City, is very crucial for United as they cannot afford to drop points against Palace and they must give an indication that they are ready to retain their Premier League crown.
United will probably be without striker Wayne Rooney who is recovering from a head injury. In the absence of Rooney, Danny Welbeck will be looking to partner Robin van Persie in attack.
Also, Brazilian defender Rafael is still out with an hamstring injury while Phil Jones is nursing an ankle problem so Chris Smalling is likely to start at right-back.
United boss David Moyes is expected to give a debut to midfielder Marouane Fellaini against Palace, with the combative midfielder having featured for Belgium on Tuesday.
Japanese international Shinji Kagawa may also feature for United in midfield despite his recent absence as the midfielder was in impressive form for his country this week.
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace will be without several key players in the trip to Old Trafford. Summer acquisitions Adrian Mariappa, Barry Bannan, Cameron Jerome, Jimmy Kebe and Adlene Guedioura will be hoping to make their first appearance for Palace.
Palace, with just one league victory away from home in 16 games, would appear to be lambs being taken to the slaughter, but they had exactly the same billing when they visited Old Trafford in the Carling Cup two years ago and ended up winning.
It will be a different ball game this time around, though, as United are very much aware that this is a game they must win at all cost to ease mounting pressures on the team. Anything short of a victory could inflict long-term damage.
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