FA Cup looms over United-Palace clash
19 April 2016, 12:43
Manchester, United Kingdom-Manchester United and Crystal Palace face a possible dress rehearsal for the FA Cup final when they meet in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
The two sides have avoided each other in the semi-final draw with United facing Everton and Palace playing Watford in the last-four ties at Wembley this coming weekend.
Victory in the Premier League fixture may therefore come as a psychological bonus ahead of a potential Cup final reunion on May 21.
It's inevitable both sides will have their thoughts on the Cup, Palace having never done better than a place in the final in 1990 -- when they lost to United -- and the Red Devils not having added to their 11 successes in the competition since 2004.
But United are also desperate for a league win to keep alive their hopes of a top-four finish and qualification for next season's Champions League.
United are currently four points behind both Manchester City and Arsenal in the race for fourth spot with five games to go and time running out.
Manger Louis van Gaal, whose position appears to be increasingly vulnerable with former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho reported to be lined up as his replacement after the end of the season, has no margin for error.
The Dutchman's side have won three of their last four league games -- as well as an FA Cup quarter-final replay at West Ham.
United midfielder Juan Mata has no problem fighting on two fronts, with the Spaniard saying: "We want to be lifting this historic trophy. In this complex season we have managed to advance in the FA Cup and now we are very excited.
"However, before Everton and the FA Cup we have to focus on the Premier League game against Crystal Palace.
"Our goal is to play in the Champions League the next season and all we think about right now is to win every single game.
"We are in good spirits ahead of these two games after the win against Aston Villa. The last week was very positive for us and it should help the team to gather momentum for the last few games."
United, who unconvincingly beat relegated Villa 1-0 last Saturday, could have midfielders Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera back as Van Gaal balances his resources ahead of the Cup semi-final.
Pressure off Palace
Palace haven't won a league match at Old Trafford since 1989 but can look forward to Wednesday's fixture with growing confidence after a 1-1 draw at Arsenal extended their current unbeaten run to four games.
Much of the pressure that had built up around the London club has been lifted at exactly the right time with the semi-final looming four days after the Eagles' trip to Manchester
"Our momentum is great," said Palace centre-back Damien Delaney. "Hopefully the point at Arsenal puts relegation to bed, especially with our goal difference as well.
"Now we can have a nice week in the run up to the FA Cup semi-final. Obviously we've got Manchester United on Wednesday but the most important thing for us was the league and we could focus on everything else after that."
Scott Dann, Delaney's central defensive partner, suffered a foot injury against Arsenal and is expected to be rested along with a number of other senior players with the semi-final in mind.
"We've got a big week coming up so we just need to rest up, there's a few people with knocks but we've got to go to Manchester United on Wednesday and hopefully we can get a good result," said Dann.