Buoyant Manchester United look to tighten grip on second place at Crystal Palace

Manchester United will be hoping to strengthen their grip on second place in the Premier League standings when they travel to take on relegation candidates Crystal Palace on Monday night. Confidence should be high among Jose Mourinho’s men, having come back from a goal down to beat top-four rivals Chelsea 2-1 last weekend.

The trip to Selhurst Park is the first in a number of season-defining matches for United, who welcome arch-rivals Liverpool to Old Trafford a few days later, before taking on Sevilla in the Champions League last-16 second leg. Palace, winless in their last five league matches, were minutes away from picking up a precious point at home to Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, only to be denied by Harry Kane’s late, headed winner. With just goal difference separating the Eagles from the bottom three, United will have to be at their very best if they are to overcome a Roy Hodgson side determined to beat the drop.

Reds top scorer Romelu Lukaku, who scored one and created the other against the Blues on Sunday, will be hoping to carry his recent good form into the clash at Selhurst Park. The Belgium international has bagged seven goals in his last 10 matches in all competitions and was at his bullish best at the weekend. In midfield, Mourinho will be without both Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini, with the pair currently recovering from their respective injuries, but could stick with academy graduate Scott McTominay, who has grown into the red shirt in the last few weeks.

At the back, Eric Bailly could make his first start since the beginning of December following a lengthy spell on the sidelines, although who Mourinho would choose to partner the Ivorian will make for interesting viewing. Phil Jones has missed the last few matches through injury, whilst Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof have all stated their case for a place in the starting line-up.

Palace, meanwhile, will be without key man and former Red Wilfried Zaha, whilst United loanee Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who has enjoyed regular first-team football at Selhurst Park, is ineligible. Back in September, the Reds enjoyed a comfortable 4-0 victory over the Eagles at Old Trafford and a similar result on Monday night would be more than welcomed.

Having gone through an inconsistent patch of form recently, losing two of their last five league fixtures, United can ill-afford another slip-up at Palace, as the race for second place hots up.