MATCH REPORT: Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester United

United saw off a period of second half pressure from Palace to secure a deserved win at Selhurst Park through goals from Mata and Fellaini and move closer to Champions League qualification.

The Reds were on the front foot immediately and Blind almost gave them an early lead when his long-range strike was turned onto the post by Speroni.   Although Palace looked threatening down the wings on occasions, United dominated possession and were full value for the lead they took in the twentieth minute.   Dann leant into Young’s cross from the left with his arm and, although there were vociferous protests from both him and his team mates, it was clearly a penalty.   Juan Mata stepped up to assume penalty taking responsibilities, scoring with an inch perfect low drive into the corner despite the Palace keeper diving the right way.

The first half continued in much the same manner, with some fluent passing play from United and Palace responding in more direct manner when they got the opportunity to do so.  The Reds defence largely dealt comfortably with their attacks but, when Luke Shaw was forced off and with Rooney clearly hampered by an injury, United looked less composed and there was a more frantic look to the team in the approach to half time.

Although Rooney was predictably replaced by Falcao at half-time, this lack of composure was still evident after half-time and Palace immediately began to look more of a threat when Puncheon came on as a half-time substitute for them.  The same player was denied a penalty when he looked to have been brought down by Mata, though the player’s Jacques Cousteau response to the foul probably went against him.  He was, however, to play a greater role in the game when his free kick found the back of the United net after deflecting off the head of Daley Blind..

It almost got worse when Smalling gave the ball away near the half-time line, carelessness that resulted in Murray steering his shot just wide of Dea’s far post.  It was one of a series of threatening counter attacks and, although United gradually recovered their composure, De Gea was called into action in the seventy-first minute, brilliantly saving from Murray’s close-range shot.

Young almost resumed United’s lead soon after that,  cutting inside from the left only for his shot to deflect wide off Dann’s foot.  Soon after the same player steamed past Ward to cut back for Mata, who blasted his shot well over the bar.  If it was beginning to look likely that Young was the key to United winning this game, then this became even more likely when his cross was met by the head of Fellaini at the back post and the big Belgian gave Speroni no chance.

That wasn’t the end of proceedings.  De Gea had to save again from Murray, this time with his legs after the Palace forward had turned McNair.  At the other end, Falcao put Herrera in, but the Basque’s shot was well saved by Speroni.  It was enough, though, and, as if United fans needed an additional reason to want Liverpool to lose, they know that a reverse for their rivals at Stamford Bridge tomorrow will secure a top four finish.

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