Ahead of Manchester United’s home clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday, manager Louis van Gaal admits he feels “lousy” about the club’s worst start to a season after 10 league games for 28 years. United have taken just 13 points thus far and lie in 10th position, seven places below what Van Gaal has stated as the club’s objective for his first campaign. While the majority of supporters have remained upbeat and there have been encouraging signs from recent matches against Chelsea and Manchester City, despite taking just a single point, the former Netherlands coach has conceded they need to do much better. Yet he again cautioned it will take some time to get the team to the level he wants.
“It's not good enough,” he said in his press conference ahead of the visit of Crystal Palace. “I feel, myself, very lousy for the fans in the first place, but also for the board because they have a great belief in me and my staff and my players. When you have 13 points out of 10 matches you are not doing well.
“On the other hand, we are in a process that I have said from the beginning when we won every game in the United States [in preseason]. I said that that process shall take more than one year; that it shall take three years.”
Van Gaal continues to be hamstrung in his work by having a host of players unavailable. Last Sunday’s derby defeat to Manchester City came at the expense of Marcos Rojo, lost to a dislocated shoulder, and Chris Smalling, sent off for two yellow cards. There is some positive news regarding Rojo, with the Argentina international not requiring surgery. Still, he faces six weeks on the sidelines, where he will be joined on Saturday by the suspended Smalling, as well as the injured Phil Jones and Jonny Evans. It means Van Gaal could be compelled to select recently fit-again midfielder Michael Carrick alongside 19-year-old Paddy McNair. Right-back Rafael also remains out injured, as does on-loan striker Radamel Falcao.
While the visitors to Old Trafford on Saturday don’t have quite the same quantity of absentees, they will have one very notable name missing out. Captain Mile Jedinak has played all 48 matches for Crystal Palace since they returned to the Premier League last season and performed a key role in maintaining their status in the top flight. But the tenacious Australian midfielder will have to watch from the sidelines against Manchester United, having been handed two yellow cards in last weekend’s 3-1 home defeat to Sunderland.
That loss to their follow strugglers leaves Palace above the relegation zone only on goal difference, after three defeats in their last four matches. As well as Jedinak, veteran manager Neil Warnock, who took over from Tony Pulis at the start of the campaign, will be unable to call upon loanee Wilfried Zaha, with the young winger ineligible to take on his parent club.
Prediction: Manchester United may be worse off in terms of points than at the same stage last season, but there is greater cause for positivity. Van Gaal is still hamstrung by the limited personnel available to him defensively, but there have been definite signs in the last two matches of the players taking on board his instructions and showing a real commitment to both defending and going forward.
Still the encouragement drawn from recent weeks will count for nothing if Palace are not beaten on Saturday. United will be faced with a different challenge against a team that will set up to be difficult to break down and try to take advantage of any opportunities a weakened home defense presents. But providing they offer enough protection to their back line, United have the quality going forward to punish what has been a porous Palace defense in recent weeks.
Manchester United 3-1 Crystal Palace
Kickoff time: 10 a.m. EST
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra