CRYSTAL PALACE 0, MANCHESTER UNITED 2
A Robin Van Persie penalty and a Wayne Rooney strike in the second half secured a 2-0 victory for Manchester United at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace.
The win ended a three match winless run for David Moyes’ men but Palace made United work for their victory ahead of a crucial Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie against Olypiakos next Tuesday.
Moyes picked a highly attacking side in the knowledge that European football through a domestic finish was likely to be beyond them. They started the day 11 points adrift of Liverpool in fourth place, the minimum finish required to qualify for the Champions League next season.
Rio Ferdinand was drafted into the side along with Adnan Januzaj and Marouane Fellaini as Moyes made three changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Arsenal at the Emirates recently.
Van Persie and Rooney were joined in attack by Januzaj and Juan Mata, the first time that all four had been deployed at the same time from the start by Moyes, with midfield anchored by fit-again Fellaini who had not played since United’s home defeat against Everton on December 4.
Fellaini slashed a first half chance to open the scoring wide when fed by Mata and Palace kept United waiting until the second half with some resolute defending.
Their eventually luck ran out against United’s attack in the second half.
Van Persie slotted home United’s opening goal from the penalty spot, sending Julian Speroni the wrong way, after Patrice Evra had been fouled in the area by Marouane Chamakh in the 62nd minute.
Cameron Jerome spurned a chance to level the scores before United extended their lead.
Rooney celebrated his 300th Premier League game and new five and a half year contract, worth up to £300,000 per week, by scoring United’s second goal and ending his own personal goal drought in the Premier League which had stretched back five games since Hull City on Boxing Day 2013.
Rooney had a first half chance cleared off the line by Damien Delaney with Nemanja Vidic unable to head home the follow-up and appeared to have had a coin thrown at him before the break while taking a corner but effectively sealed victory against a mean Palace defence in the 68th minute with a rising volley into the roof of the net from Evra’s cut back from 12 yards out.
Van Persie’s late effort hit the bar but the win was comfortable as United began to prepare for their crucial Champions League future.