Manchester United bounced back from three consecutive defeats on Saturday as goals from Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini secured a hard-fought victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, boosting the club’s chances of securing Champions League qualification.
The Reds were made to work hard for the three points, however, after Jason Puncheon scored a deflected equaliser at the start of the second half for the hosts. Thankfully, Louis van Gaal’s men held their nerve and secured an important win that puts pressure on fifth-placed Liverpool ahead of their trip to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Van Gaal made two changes to his starting XI by bringing in Phil Jones and Luke Shaw for Paddy McNair and Robin van Persie. The latter was not even in the squad due to a virus, while Angel Di Maria also missed the game due to a training-ground injury.
Daley Blind went agonisingly close to scoring United’s first goal in four matches in the seventh minute when receiving the ball in acres of space, before hitting a low 25-yard shot that was palmed onto the left-hand post by Julian Speroni. Ander Herrera also saw another long-range effort fly just wide of the goal during a confident opening.
Wilfried Zaha, facing United for the first time since leaving in January, skinned Antonio Valencia in the 16th minute before executing a fine cross that just evaded Glenn Murray. The deadlock was broken seconds later, however, and at the other end of the pitch.
Ashley Young’s cross from the left wing struck the hand of Scott Dann and referee Michael Oliver instantly pointed to the penalty spot. Mata stepped up to take it and the Spaniard calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left-hand corner to score his 10th goal of the season.