4-2-3-1: This explosive United side will rip Palace apart this weekend

February 3, 2023

One thing we can say with a great degree of certainty after the last week is that Erik ten Hag is not a fan of rotation.

Faced with an easy home FA Cup tie against Reading and a 3-0 aggregate cushion for the EFL Cup second leg against Forest, and having a mounting injury crisis, many expected a number of tired legs to be rested.

But with the odd exception, they weren’t. So it seems inevitable that unless tactics call for a particular tweak, the manager is going to field his strongest XI against Palace, the only question is, who he considers that to be at this exact point in time?

Well, David de Gea will definitely be back in goal despite Tom Heaton keeping a clean sheet in midweek.

Diogo Dalot may or may not be returning to fitness but Aaron Wan-Bissaka is match fit and playing well, so he will start. Luke Shaw will stay at left back as he continues his recovery from a short layoff.

It seems clear that Ten Hag’s preferred centre back pairing is Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez, so they will probably start as well, with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof on the bench once more.

Christian Eriksen is out until late April at the earliest and Donny van de Beek is also ruled out for the season, with Scott McTominay also expected to be absent for a week or two.

This leaves few options in central midfield. Marcel Sabitzer should be available to make his debut, having signed on loan from Bayern Munich on deadline day. But given the gradual way Ten Hag introduced Casemiro into the United side, we think it’s more likely that the Austrian will be given half an hour from the bench rather than the full 90. So Casemiro and Fred is the predicted starting defensive midfield pairing.

The in-form Marcus Rashford should be back on the left wing having been rested against Forest and the largely disappointing Antony will probably continue on the right, with Bruno Fernandes in the number 10 position.

Jadon Sancho played 30 minutes on Wednesday but we think it’s unlikely that he’ll be started just yet and so will probably come on again. Whether that will be in one of the wing positions or in the surprise number 10 role that he was asked to play on Wednesday remains to be seen. The sight of Bruno being shifted out to the right wing to accommodate Jadon through the middle caused most fans to miss a beat but it worked superbly, so it could be the sign of things to come.

This leaves the issue of who plays up top and it seems logical that Anthony Martial gets the nod having also played 30 minutes, and scored, in the EFL semi.

Wout Weghorst has been a very capable deputy but he now maybe needs a rest and Martial’s greater pace, trickery and movement should be more beneficial in breaking down Palace’s stubborn defensive unit. It will also be good for the Frenchman’s confidence to be brought straight back in.

With all that in mind, here is our predicted XI for Saturday’s game: