Crystal Palace 0, Manchester United 2
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial scored as Manchester United drew level with Leicester City with a controversial victory at Crystal Palace.Embed from Getty Images
It was a game of precious few chances but two VAR decisions cost Palace dearly – Wilfried Zaha was denied a penalty and Jordan Ayew’s equaliser was ruled out for offside by the technology.
It was the seventh time a goal against United had been chalked off by VAR this season – the joint most alongside Southampton and Brighton – and it condemned the home side to a sixth consecutive Premier League defeat without the Reds having to play well to chalk up their 19th unbeaten game in a row.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made changes to their starting lineup for the first time in six games, with 2 changes to the side that drew 2-2 against Southampton at Old Trafford.
With Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams both injured, Timothy Fosu-Mensah made his first appearance for the Reds since May 2017 – ironically in a 2-0 win over Palace at Old Trafford – while Scott McTominay replaced Nemanja Matic in midfield.
David De Gea was in action within the first minute when he palmed away Wilfried Zaha’s shot while Harry Maguire twice rose well but could not direct Bruno Fernandes’ corner into a genuine goal attempt.
Delivery into dangerous areas was lacking after Zaha’s early shout, with Palace defending well, Mason Greenwood spooned a square ball by Martial wide as neither side had the intensity to force a break through until Victor Lindelof’s poor control gave Jordan Ayew the chance to shoot but only straight at a grateful David De Gea.
Zaha went down in the area and seemed set for earn a penalty being brought down by Lindelof but, despite contact, there was no VAR re-assessment as it appeared that the Swedish defender got a touch on the ball too.
It was Rashford that broke the deadlock in injury time, when Bruno Fernandes slipped in the England man whose quick change of direction left half of Palace’s defence on the ground before he stroked in his 22nd goal of the season into the bottom corner.
Palace captain Luka Milivojevic’s free kick was tipped away by De Gea as Palace tried to get a quick equaliser before the end of the first half.
Jordan Ayew thought he had equalised 10 minutes after the restart but VAR struck again to declare him offside after Zaha had crossed to the striker for a close finish from 2 yards out.
De Gea saved from James McCarthy while Rashford’s tame shot was stopped by Vincent Guaita and Fernandes hit the base of the post as the spaces opened up with Palace going for an equaliser.
Martial had been kept quiet for most of the game but United finally got the breathing space they needed when Fernandes nutmegged Milivojevic and found Rashford who quickly moved the ball into the box where the Frenchman pounced from 9 yards out to notch his 22nd goal of the season.
And there was a double blow for Palace as Patrick van Aanholt had to be stretchered off after falling under challenge from Martial as he scored.
Lengthy treatment to the Dutch defender meant that there were 11 minutes of added time for Palace to try and get on the scoresheet but the wind had been taken out of their sales by the perceived VAR injustice and the injury.
It was United who looked the more likely to improve their goal difference.
Fernandes and Rashford had efforts saved by Guaita, Fernandes sent a free kick into the side netting, and Sakho cleared a deflected Martial shot off the line, and the Frenchman didn’t win a penalty after Scott Dann got on touch on the ball before bringing him down.
De Gea made a late save to deny Zaha a goal, and chalk up his 112th Premier League clean sheet – equalling Peter Schmeichel’s club record – as United kept attacking to try and close the goal difference deficit to Leicester City into the final Champions League spot.
GOALS – Crystal Palace 0, Manchester United 2
Crystal Palace 0, Man Utd 1: 45+1. Marcus Rashford’s change of direction took out the Palace goalkeeper and two defenders as he tucked in the opening goal inside the opposite corner after Bruno Fernandes slipped him through.
Crystal Palace 0, Man Utd 2: 78. Anthony Martial’s deadly finish from 9 yards out completed a neat passing move by United after Bruno Fernandes nutmegged Luka Milivojevic to find Marcus Rashford whose one touch pass put martial clean through.
MATCH STATS – Crystal Palace 0, Manchester United 2
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, Dann, Sakho, van Aanholt (Mitchell 84), Townsend, McCarthy (Riedewald 84), Milivojevic, McArthur (Schlupp 71), Zaha, Jordan Ayew
Crystal Palace subs not used: Hennessey, Meyer, Kouyate, Kelly, Woods, Pierrick
Booked: Millivojevic 90+4
Man Utd: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Fosu-Mensah, McTominay (Matic 63), Fernandes, Pogba, Greenwood (Lingard 63), Rashford, Martial
Man Utd Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Mata, Fred, Dalot, James, Ighalo
Booked: Wan-Bissaka 36 (foul on James McArthur); Maguire (foul on Jordan Ayew 65)
Goals: Rashford 45+1; Martial 78
Referee: Graham Scott