Manchester United maintained their relentless pursuit of a place in the Premier League’s top four with a hard-fought win against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were under pressure after Leicester City’s earlier victory over Sheffield United and responded with a victory that keeps them in fifth place, level on points with the Foxes but with an inferior goal difference.
United were made to work for their victory, Marcus Rashford breaking the deadlock with a stylish finish in first-half stoppage time before playing his part in a sweet move involving Bruno Fernandes that was rounded off by Anthony Martial in the 78th minute.
It extended United’s unbeaten run to 19 games in all competitions but Palace felt a real sense of injustice, furious that they were denied a penalty just before United took the lead when Wilfried Zaha tangled with Victor Lindelof, and then seeing a potential 55th-minute equaliser from Jordan Ayew ruled out by VAR for a very marginal offside.
It meant Roy Hodgson’s side slumped to their sixth consecutive league loss and their night was made worse by what looked like serious injury to Patrick van Aanholt, who was carried off on a stretcher after trying to prevent Martial scoring United’s second.
United set up date with destiny
United were not at their best and were grateful to goalkeeper David de Gea for some fine saves, particularly from Zaha, while he also did well to keep out Luka Milivojevic’s free-kick.
This, however, is a United team developing a ruthless streak, demonstrated by Rashford’s calm finish for the opener, and then an artistic move constructed by Rashford and Fernandes that enabled Martial to complete the job in style.
United needed the instant response after Leicester’s win earlier on Thursday and there is real efficiency as well as a rapier thrust to Solskjaer’s side that has taken them on this long unbeaten run.
It leaves them in contention for that top-four place, as well as the Europa League, and they also have an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley this weekend.
Most mouth-watering of all, they face a potentially decisive visit to Leicester on the final day of the season.
More to follow.