I am indebted to @RedNBlueArmy1 for the following stat to get this preview kicked off on a shiny, positive note – Palace have not won on 31 October since 1959 when we beat Gateshead.
That is a run of 8 matches – 0 wins, 1 draw & 7 losses. Now I am neither particularly superstitious nor an advocate of the Americanisation that is Halloween but this has not put me into an especially optimistic frame of mind for the Manchester United match. But there are other reasons behind my pessimism.
Firstly, we have three successive losses and each one seemed to be a worse performance than the previous one. Where the West Ham defeat was cruel on the ten men’s admirable spirit and discipline, the Leicester loss was mainly as a result of a poor first-half and a generally listless performance until we woke up after Vardy was gifted a goal by Brede ‘Beckenbauer’ Hangeland. As for Man City in midweek, there is very little consolation in being shellacked 5-1 even in a lesser competition.
Secondly, our attacking line–up has been about as intimidating as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest. None of Bamford, Bolasie or Campbell (aka BBC) have shown much goal threat and United’s defenders will not be losing too much sleep over the prospect of facing a team where goals are rarer than hen’s teeth.
Wickham seems to be doing a mighty fine impression of Joniesta in terms of fragility and could well become the new Darren Anderton, who laboured under the title of ‘Sick Note’ for the latter part of his career.
Lastly, we have not beaten United in the league for a very long time (not quite 1959 Gateshead era) and Van Gaal has introduced a steeliness to their play, which makes them tougher but not necessarily more attractive.
They also have a forward who is struggling to find the net, but he happens to be England’s all-time highest goal scorer and at some stage he will rediscover his touch. Let’s just hope and pray that will not be against us. In the vain attempt to finish in a more upbeat manner than how this piece began, I’m sure our luck will change and one day we might even get a decent ref (I’m just not sure when).
Richard Foster is a freelance football writer and author, who is a regular features contributor for The Guardian. He also writes for Sabotage Times and a variety of Palace blogs and fanzines, including Five Year Plan.
His latest book The Agony & The Ecstasy – A Comprehensive History of the Football League Play-Offs – is out now and available via www.ockleybooks.co.uk. A revised paperback edition will be released mid-November.
Talking Balls! his sports quotes book, was published in September and is the perfect stocking filler for any sports fan this Christmas.
Follow him on twitter @rcfoster.