David Moyes will have Marouane Fellaini at his disposal for the first time as the Manchester United manager looks to return to winning ways against Crystal Palace on Saturday. After a convincing opening win over Swansea City, United have looked less than impressive in first getting an admittedly acceptable point with Chelsea but then losing at bitter rivals Liverpool.
Those results followed a summer of frustration and some ignominy in the transfer market for the new boss. But former Everton midfielder Fellaini was added on transfer deadline day and Moyes spoke confidently about what the Belgian can bring to the side.
“He's well known in the Premier League, experienced in the Premier League and he can do several different jobs,” he explained at Fellaini’s unveiling on Friday. “He can play different positions, score goals and is effective in different areas of the field. So I'm hoping that if he can continue to improve and does the same at Manchester United, we could have a really top player on our hands.”
Fellaini is likely to be needed with United entering a busy spell of fixtures as the Champions League gets underway on Tuesday with a match against Bayer Leverkusen. On Saturday United will again be without Wayne Rooney, who Moyes confirmed has yet to fully recover from a head wound. One man who will be looking to feature is Wilfried Zaha. The winger has yet to get on the pitch in competitive action for United and would doubtless relish the opportunity to show what he can do against his former club.
"We've been pleased with Wilfried," Moyes claimed. "He's been quite bright over the few days since he's been back. He got a couple of games for the England Under-21s and is one of the most promising players on the way up.
"The fact that it's his old club in this game won't change my views in any way but he's someone who we hope he can continue to develop and, when we think he's ready, we'll get him towards the team."
In an effort to build a squad capable of surviving in the Premier League, Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway has brought in an incredible 16 players since gaining promotion. Many of those arrivals came on deadline day, with Cameron Jerome, Barry Bannan, Adrian Mariappa and Jack Hunt all signing. Right-back Hunt will be unavailable until at least the New Year, though, after breaking his ankle.
Palace travel to Old Trafford boosted by a 3-1 victory over Sunderland last time out. However, the London side have never beaten Manchester United in eight Premier League meetings.
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra
M: Carrick, Fellaini
Valencia, Welbeck, Nani
F: Van Persie
Crystal Palace (probable)
D: Ward, Delaney, Gabbidon, Moxey
M: Puncheon, Campana, Jedinak, Bannan, Gayle
Prediction: Manchester United were very poor last time out against Liverpool. Indeed, there was a desperate lack of creativity both in that game and against Chelsea. It is strange then that one of the club’s most inventive players, Shinji Kagawa, has so far remained a peripheral figure. With United at home and Rooney out, it will say much if he does not start on Saturday. United have also been lacking in wide areas and Moyes may hope for a spark from Nani, having handed the winger a new contract.
Fellaini, if he starts, should provide more to the side than Tom Cleverley, who has started the season disappointingly. In truth, United, even if they fail to hit the heights, should secure victory over a Crystal Palace side that looks set to face a long, hard battle against the drop.
Manchester United 3-1 Crystal Palace
Where to watch: The match will kick-off at Old Trafford at 7.45 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available to watch on NBC Sports Live Extra.