Manchester United move through the gears as Crystal Palace lose under the lights at Selhurst
Tony Pulis suffered his first home defeat of 2014 in a repeat of the Eagles’ 2-0 league loss at Old Trafford back in September as a Robin van Persie penalty and Wayne Rooney strike saw off a resilient Crystal Palace.
The Eagles now find themselves just two points above the relegation places on 26 points with 12 games to play.
Glenn Murray started his first game for Palace since May 2013 with United manager David Moyes giving wonderkid Adnan Januzaj a start for the visitors.
The home side had their first foray into the United area after just three minutes when a long ball to Murray caused United to clear for a corner, but the visitors then had three clear chances in three minutes but fluffed their lines in front of the Holmesdale, who had put on a pre-game display headed by a ‘Together, Our Spirit is Unbreakable’ banner.
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Robin van Persie completely missed a bicycle kick, Januzaj shot wide and Marouane Fellaini fluffed a cutback from the Dutchman.
However, the current Premier League champions, buoyed by an upbeat Wayne Rooney, who signed a reported £300,000-a-week contract this week, did manage to get the ball in the net in the 17th minute but Januzaj controlled it with his hand.
Palace were testing the United defence with Jason Puncheon and Tom Ince finding plenty of room in midfield, but the Eagles could not test them enough and when Rooney was not closed down following a 26th minute corner, his looping cross evaded everyone except Damien Delaney who headed it off the line and it remained 0-0 as Nemanja Vidic could only put his follow-up over the bar.
Just two minutes later though Palace had their best chance of the match as an Ince cross into the United box caused panic with it breaking to Jonathan Parr whose header back in deflected off of Chris Smalling and a crucial save from De Gea ensured the game remained goalless.
Moments later Marouane Chamakh saw the ball drop to him in the six-yard box from an Ince cross but his header did not have enough power to test De Gea and United followed up with their best chance of the half as Fellaini again had a chance to score but the midfielder who had not played for nearly three months lent back and his left-footed shot went horribly wide of the post.
Palace went into the break the happier of the two teams and whatever Pulis said worked a treat as Palace forced three early corners but, again, a lack of a cutting edge meant that they could not capitalise.
The longer the game went on without a goal, the more United shifted through their gears but clever play from Murray in the 59th minute Murray drew a foul from Vidic and from the resulting free-kick the Palace top scorer from last season could only hook a weak shot straight into De Gea.
United, however, were beginning to impose themselves and as Patrice Evra raced into the Palace box, a clumsy challenge from Chamakh saw the Frenchman crash down just centimetres inside the line and van Persie sent Speroni the wrong way from the resulting penalty to put United 1-0 up.
A tired Murray was subbed soon after for Cameron Jerome and within seconds of his introduction he beat Smalling with a curling shot that De Gea did well to get down to and push out for a corner.
This was to prove the last chance Palace had of getting something from the game as an attacking run from Evra to the touchline saw a neat cut-back to Rooney in space inside the Palace box and his expert half-volley beat Speroni to double the lead at 2-0 and kill the game.
Van Persie then hit the crossbar after a speculative shot and despite the introduction of Dwight Gayle and Yannick Bolasie, who kept United on their toes, the Eagles’ impressive home form under Pulis came to an end with all eyes and minds in SE25 now on the six-pointer away at Swansea on Sunday afternoon.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Parr, Puncheon, Jedinak, Ledley, Ince (Gayle 85), Chamakh (Bolasie 74), Murray (Jerome 66).
Subs not used: Hennessey, Gabbidon, Dikgacoi, Bannan