A visit to Selhurst Park usually heralds three points for Manchester United, but after three straight defeats, this game was certainly no forgone conclusion.
United had to do without the services of Robin van Persie (suffering a virus that had affected other staff at the club) and Angel Di Maria who was injured, so in came Phil Jones to make a start at the heart of the United defence alongside Chris Smalling.
An early long range strike from Daley Blind tested Julian Speroni in the Crystal Palace goal, who done well to palm his shot onto the post and out for a corner kick.
Then came the breakthrough for the travelling Reds after 19 minutes as Ashley Young’s cross was hand balled by Scott Dann, who meandered his arm into the direction of the cross, leaving referee Michael Oliver with no choice but to award the spot kick.
It was left to Juan Mata to take the penalty, and he duly obliged from the spot, slotting into the bottom corner to give United a 1-0 lead.
Ten minutes later skipper Wayne Rooney starting moving gingerly as his left thigh gave him cause for concern. Five minutes after that and left back Luke Shaw suffered mild concussion after an elbow by James McArthur who was trying to elevate himself as the pair went up for a header. Shaw was subsequently replaced by Jonny Evans seven minutes before half time.
Despite a half time fitness test for the injured Rooney, manager Louis van Gaal decided not to risk his captain for the second half as Radamel Falcao replaced him, and occupied the strikers position instead.
For all of United’s possession and domination in the first half, Palace came out in the second half with much more intent and purpose in attack. Substitute Jason Puncheon fell theatrically after he went down from a challenge by Mata, and but for his exaggerated reaction, he could have won Palace a penalty.
Moments later Chris Smalling gave away a free kick which Puncheon took, and for the second week running, a deflection took it past David De Gea. Whether it was the sun blinding Daley Blind, van Gaal would have been annoyed at how the Dutchman failed to react accordingly to the free kick, with the ball hitting the top of Blind’s head, as he made no attempt to jump.
Palace started pressing more and more, as United seemed to stagnate through their attacks, and with less than twenty minutes to go David De Gea pulled of a fabulous save from Glen Murray, and prevented United from going behind.
Ashley Young then fired a shot across goal, as he narrowly missed the target, and then pulled a ball back for Mata when a it might have been a better opportunity for Falcao, again United failed to capitalise.
With thirteen minutes to go Young delivered a cross for Marouanne Fellaini to score on his 50th game for United, as Palace keeper Speroni made a real mess of trying to clear the cross taking out his own defenders in the process.
2-1 United almost became 2-2 but another great stop from De Gea thwarted Murray again.
In the last minute of normal time, with Palace pressing for an equaliser, United counter attacked, and neat build up play from Mata and Falcao almost led to Ander Herrera adding to United’s score line, but Speroni spared Palace the anguish.
A vital three points towards the Champions League places for United, who entertain Arsenal in the last home game of the season, and a chance to atone for the defeat suffered in the FA Cup. Van Gaal will be hoping that the injuries picked up by Rooney, Shaw and Smalling are not too serious to keep them out of next weeks game.