The fixture of Crystal Palace vs Manchester United was more important for the visitors, as a win was much needed to keep hopes alive for a top four finish.
As we predicted it right, Eric Bailly was introduced in the United starting lineup after a long time. Unfortunately, his return was off to a rocky start. The defender got an early injury and it seemed that a replacement is needed urgently. However, he managed to shake off the initial scare. Not for long though. Just before the 20th minute mark into the game, Bailly was involved in another collision and was down for a longer time than the previous incident. This time too, he got up and continued playing, much to the delight of the away fans.
Meanwhile, both sides played end to end and created some decent chances. Jose Mourinho should have been content with the dominance United showed in the first 45 minutes, but unfortunately, Wayne Rooney and co failed to break the deadlock. Towards the end of the half in particular, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic made two attempts but the Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey pulled off important saves on both occasions.
And then, with the last kick of the first half, Pogba started the proceedings for his side. After a foul conceded by Martin Kelly, Juan Mata floated in a delightful free kick from the left side. The ball found Ibrahimovic inside the box and he chested it beautifully on to the path of Pogba. The Frenchman made no mistake to slot it home from a close range. Albeit there were doubts whether it was an offside, the visitors were ecstatic with the well-deserved lead at the break.
The beginning of the second half was the same as in the first one. Bailly eventually had to be substituted off at 52nd minute and he might have to miss the actions for quite some time once again. And then, the home side brought forth their best around the hour mark.
At first, David De Gea parried a sudden rasp effort from James McArthur away for a corner, and Palace were still trailing by the narrowest of margins. Minutes later, it was the same player again who got the better of the United custodian, thanks to an exquisite touch from Damien Delaney. The flick inside the box found McArthur and he put it past De Gea in style to make it 1-1.
Next few minutes were all about the visiting side and the referee. It was disheartening for the United fans to be on the wrong side of the referee’s bad decisions on two occasions. First, it was a clear handball from Joe Ledley inside the Crystal Palace box, but the match official did not notice it and chose not to award the spot kick. And then, Marcos Rojo nodded a cross on to the path of Mata who then tapped it into the goal, but the linesman ruled it offside. Replays showed later that the Spaniard was in a perfect position and that goal should have been allowed.
A few minutes later, substitute Jesse Lingard tried to send the ball past Hennessey from a close range. But, the Eagles goalkeeper was a tough nut to crack with that attempt.
Finally, United regained their lead with two minutes on the clock. Pogba was the star again, this time being the architect behind an extraordinary goal. The former Juventus man turned Yohan Cabaye down before sending a delicious through ball to Zlatan, and the job was completed when the Swedish netted a screamer from a difficult angle. The scoreline remained 1-2 in the end and the Red Devils maintained their position in the league table.
Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Hennessey; Kelly, Dann, Delaney, Ward; Flamini (Ledley, 46′), Cabaye, McArthur (Campbell, 87′); Lee (Fryers, 80′), Zaha, Benteke.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Bailly (Darmian, 52′), Jones, Rojo, Blind; Carrick, Herrera; Mata (Lingard, 71′), Pogba, Rooney (Rashford, 80′); Ibrahimovic.
Goals: Pogba (45’+2′), McArthur (66′), Ibrahimovic (88′).
Crystal Palace vs Manchester United Highlights:
Crystal Palace vs Manchester United Match Statistics:
|Crystal Palace||Manchester United|
|Shots (on target)||6 (3)||16 (6)|
|Passes played (accuracy)||300 (75%)||528 (85%)|
|Fouls conceded (Bookings)||16 (2 yellow)||10 (3 yellow)|
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Photo by Ali F. Al-Saeed