United-Palace tie FA Cup final preview?
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 later tonight.
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 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 is inevitable both sides will have their thoughts on the Cup.
Palace have never done better than earning a place in the final in 1990, when they lost to United. The Red Devils have not 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.
They are four points behind both Manchester City and Arsenal in the race for fourth spot with five games to go and time running out.
Manager 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.
Palace have not won a league match at Old Trafford since 1989. But they can look forward to today'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.
Scott Dann, Delaney's central defensive partner, suffered a foot injury against Arsenal.
He 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 (today) and hopefully we can get a good result," said Dann.