Manchester United boss David Moyes is hoping that everyone has benefited from a recent warm-weather training camp in Dubai, as he looks to salvage something from what has thus far been a disastrous first season in charge. The Premier League champions go into Saturday’s visit of Crystal Palace in seventh place, a full 11 points off even a qualifying position for the Champions League.
"It was great that we had some time together with the players -- the first time I've really had the chance to have a few days with the lads,” he explained, according to Manchester United’s official website.
"We trained and had some relaxation time as well, so it was good. You hope you get some benefit from it. I'm sure it will benefit the players, having the chance to relax. We'd have rather been in the FA Cup, let me tell you that, but we weren't so the next thing we had to do was get them ready for the 12 remaining league games."
United are badly in need of any kind of a lift they can get right now. While their start to the season was poor, the second-half of the campaign has so far sunk to even lower depths. In 2014, United have won just two of their seven league games as well as exiting both domestic cup competitions. The club will hope that Wayne Rooney’s signing of a new contract will help provide a sense of optimism. However, it is hard not to also see the huge financial outlay and the length of the contract involved for a 28-year-old with a less than impressive history of fitness habits as something of an act of desperation.
Against Crystal Palace, Moyes will again be tasked with composing a strategy to get the best out of Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie, while Adnan Januzaj could also be added to that equation from the start.
United face a difficult schedule in the coming days with the clash at Selhurst Park being followed up by the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Greek champions Olympiakos. Moyes dismissed the idea that he will prioritize one match or the other, but suggested that squad rotation would be necessary.
"We want to win [against Crystal Palace]," he said. "We have another big game on Tuesday night as well. We play at 17:30 [GMT] and then again on Tuesday night. That's the way it is but we'll be ready.
"There's a squad here that's always been used to being rotated and used. That's why, lots of times, United have often been strong at the end of the season -- they make sure players haven't played every game.”
There is no doubt that Crystal Palace boss Tony Pulis will be fully focused on Saturday’s encounter. Pulis has instigated an incredible turnaround since taking over a club that appeared doomed to spend just one season back in the top flight. Palace are now two points out of the drop zone and with a game in hand. Yet, in a battle to avoid relegation that incredibly includes 11 teams, Pulis will be fully aware that a bad result could see his side right back in serious trouble.
After the postponement of their match with Everton 10 days ago, Palace have not played since their 3-1 victory over West Brom two weeks ago. It was a match that saw the debuts of several January signings, including loan arrival Tom Ince who promptly got on the score-sheet. Palace were also boosted in the win by the return from long-term injury of forward Glenn Murray. The club’s top scorer last season is again likely to start form the bench.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 12.30 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBC, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.