MANCHESTER UNITED 2, CRYSTAL PALACE 0
Manchester United secured a comfortable 2-0 home win after a controversial opening goal just before half time which saw a debatable penalty given and a Crystal Palace man sent off before Wayne Rooney, sporting a customised headband following his recent head injury, finished off a defiant Palace with a neat free kick in the second half.
There was even time for the Old Trafford debuts of Marouane Fellaini and teenage winger Adnan Januzaj, 50 years to the day after one George Best debuted for United in 1963, while former manager Sir Alex Ferguson watched approvingly from within the stadium as David Moyes won his first game at Old Trafford on his 13th attempt.
Moyes was pleased with the result and felt victory was deserved and inevitable.
“We could have done with a few more goals but I thought we were dominant from the first whistle.
“It was a difficult decision to play Wayne because of his injury. We only got the headband on Friday and we tried it. It looks like it’s for sumo wrestlers!
“Wayne felt ok with it and I saw him head the ball a couple of times with it so I thought we would try it.
“He scored a great free kick but he got tired in the second half.”
Moyes sympathised with the officials who gave the penalty that handed United a first half lead and the letter of the law that meant Kagisho Dikgacoi had to be sent off.
“In real time it must have been difficult to make the decision but we deserved it after two earlier incidents.
“Every time someone is the last man in that situation there will be a red card. It was harsh but unfortunatly those are the rules. I don’t think the boy went to wipe him out.
The game might have seen the debut of Fellaini but it was another Old Trafford debutant that had the crowd purring.
Adnan Januzaj had started the Community Shield at Wembley but today was his home debut and the crowd marvelled at the nerveless display of confidence, pace and control after his second half introduction. Moyes was delighted with the reaction to the young Belgian.
“The games we’ve been dealt at the start means it’s been hard to introduce him. I considered playing him from the start today. His performance merited it.
“He did a lot of good things, he moved with the ball and he’s just 18.”
Moyes thought the result was never in doubt despite the controversial incident at the end of the first half that led to United’s opening goal.
Referee Jon Moss made the belated decision despite replays showing Dikgacoi had committed the initial foul on Ashley Young outside the area and the United winger fell into the area under the momentum of the challenge.
Moss awarded the penalty after asking for a second opinion from his assistant and then proceeded to send off the South African midfielder leaving Robin Van Persie to send Palace ‘keeper Julian Speroni the wrong way in added time.
The visitors had almost made it to half time with a a combination of luck and resilience which saw several defensive headers and clearances made to frustrate United despite ceding possession to their hosts at an alarming rate. Moss had earlier turned down two penalty appeals from United, one from Patrice Evra and another from Young whose reputation preceded him when he was booked for a dive for falling over Dikgacoi after going past him.
The chances continued to pile up for United, however, and towards the end of the first half cracks began to appear in Palace’s defence and United’s best move started with Michael Carrick deep in midfield, through Anderson and Rooney before Robin Van Persie’s rising strike flicked off the top of the crossbar in the 39th minute.
Rooney, too, could have opened the scoring in the first half but a cross was too high for him while Palace finally tested David De Gea in the United goal with a couple of chances spurned by Dwight Gayle – one of which saw the young striker go past Rio Ferdinand but he was put off by Dea Gea who made himself big and forced Gayle to lift his chance wide in the Eagles’ best attempt on goal.
Controversial penalty aside, Ten-man Palace found new reserves of concentration after the break and kept United waiting for the crucial second goal but a flurry of a second half substitutions saw the home debuts of Fellaini and Januzaj the crowd had something to rouse them with Januzaj terrorising the Palace defence with pace and confidence on the ball.
The Kosovar-Albanian teenager tested Speroni on 68 minutes with a raking left wing cross which Speroni parried away but moments later the hulking form of Fellaini emerged from midfield with a trademark chest down of the loose ball and a swerving volley that had Speroni at full stretch to his left to make the save.
Van Persie was not to be forgotten, however, and his acute shot from the corner whistled just over the bar while Rooney was thwarted only by a committed crowd of blocking defenders as he tried to find a clear shot from 12 yards.
With United in the ascendance it was only a matter of time before their superior numbers began to count against tiring legs and the lively Januzaj was brought down by Palace substitute Adlene Guedioura 25 yards out. Rooney stepped up and placed the free kick into the space just inside the near post beyond the diving Speroni to make the game safe.
Januzaj released Rooney for a run on goal towards the end but the England man snatched at his shot although a third goal would have been a fine reward for Rooney’s overall performance.