Palace are unbeaten at home since December 21 of last year. Tony Pulis’ reign has seen them rise to 15th in the table, bringing in new signings and apparently instilling new confidence in players who had struggled to make their presence felt on the Premier League before his arrival.
In theory, Manchester United should offer a much sterner test.
In order to do so, Moyes will need to hope that the trip to Dubai has warmed United’s spirits. On the back of a defeat to Stoke, a frustrating home draw with Fulham and a tepid 0-0 draw at the Emirates, Moyes could really do with his team producing a promising performance to match any positive result.
When considering his selection, he will no doubt have in mind the need to maintain freshness ahead of the Champions League game against Olympiacos in Greece next week.
However, given the break in Dubai and the lengthy gap to United’s next fixture after their European away match, this may well impact this weekend’s selection in a less dramatic fashion than it otherwise would have.
Barring unforeseen injury, David de Gea will continue in goal.
Rafael is currently listed by physioroom.com as suffering from a concussion, but should be in contention for the game. If he is, then it seems likely he will start, given his attacking contribution is generally more effective than Chris Smalling’s—although this was not the case against Fulham or Arsenal, when the Brazillian was far from his best.
In the centre of the defence, given the injuries facing Jonny Evans and Phil Jones, a partnership of Nemanja Vidic and Smalling seems reasonably likely. Smalling is one of the few United players to have emerged with much credit from recent games.
Rio Ferdinand is another, having excelled in the second half against Arsenal, but if he is to return to regular contention for a place in the side, Moyes may value his European experience too much to risk him against Palace.
Patrice Evra will resume left-back duties. Given the relatively light fixture schedule, there seems little need for Alex Buttner to be given a run out.
In midfield, Michael Carrick remains a certainty for selection when fit. The much-maligned Tom Cleverley had a fine game against Arsenal and is likely to play, although much of this depends on Moyes’ plans for his mid-week midfield.
Marouane Fellaini may see a return to action. A 60th-minute substitution for either Carrick or Cleverley will be in the cards should United have a modicum of control in the match by that point.
Moyes has a plethora of options in wide and attacking midfield areas.
Given Palace are relatively strong in wide areas, he may revert to more defensive-minded options. Should Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young be in the starting 11, it will be at the expense of Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj.
Whilst many fans would no doubt prefer to see both Mata and Januzaj play, I suspect Moyes will chose one each of the flair/solidity options. Given that Mata is cup-tied and unable to play in Europe, he will almost certainly start.
Wayne Rooney, with or without a new contract, will take to the field behind Robin van Persie unless Moyes chooses significant tactical innovation of the type that has been uncommon during his time in charge.
Below is a predicted line-up. Feel free to add yours in the comments!
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