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Manchester United need to beat Palace to stay in contention

Manchester United are in danger of dropping into the Premier League ‘dead zone’ if they don’t buck up soon – and by that I mean alongside Southampton and Newcastle in the middle of the table with nothing to play for apart from pride.

Long out of the title race and now out to 7/1 with Coral to finish in the top four, the Reds badly need to keep their hopes of Champions League football next season alive and that means beating Crystal Palace this Saturday teatime.

Okay, so United are in a much better position than Palace and the other ten clubs haunted by the prospect of relegation, but there has always been something meaningful to play for at Old Trafford – this generation of fans and players have never known anything else.

Winning the Champions League this year is another route back to the top table, of course, but though they should get past Olympiacos, nobody will be confident of them beating one of the heavyweights later in the competition. Coral’s 18/1 accurately sums up their prospects.

The last thing David Moyes will want in his first season is for it all to go stale in the closing months. And there is the added danger that United will become even more vulnerable against the vast majority of sides in the Premier League with more to play for than they do.

It’s incredible to think that Palace, for so long written off as doomed to relegation, would have climbed into the top half of the table if the match against Everton last week had gone ahead and they had beaten them.

And who would have thought in the opening weeks of the season that Palace would be facing United in February with a theoretical chance of closing to within two places of the champions if they beat them?

Tony Pulis has worked wonders at Selhurst Park and though they are by no means out of the woods yet, they are two points above the drop zone with a game in hand and now 2/5 with Coral to stay up.

The return of prolific striker Glenn Murray from his lengthy spell on the sidelines is more great news for the Eagles.

But surely it’s time for United to start punching their weight again. Juan Mata, the creative force they have been crying out for, has the intelligence to quickly settle in and provide the chances for Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, back in tandem up front.

Palace (5/1) will scrap for everything, but United look the better bet at 4/7 and they might even win with a bit to spare, say 3-0 (11/1).