Despite a spirited display from the Eagles, Marouane Fellaini grabbed the winning goal for Manchester United with 15 minutes to go to stretch Palace’s winless run to four games.
The Eagles had come back from conceding a Juan Mata penalty in the first half when the introduction of Jason Puncheon as a half-time substitute saw them give the Red Devils plenty of problems with the winger seeing a free-kick deflect in, but after squandering a number of chances and finding Dave de Gea in inspired form, Fellaini’s goal ensured that the visitors claimed all three points.
A lively opening from both sides saw them creep into each other’s final thirds early on and Julian Speroni was forced into a decent stop to deny Daley Blind, but on 17 minutes the visitors were awarded a controversial penalty.
Ashley Young tricked his way past Joel Ward and delivered a cross into the box which seemed to strike Scott Dann’s shoulder but Michael Oliver pointed to the spot, believing there to be a handball. Mata stepped up and despite Julian Speroni guessing the right way, the Spaniard found the net for the second time this season against the Eagles.
Palace nearly found a way to get themselves level when Mile Jedinak headed a corner wide and then a clever free-kick saw Joe Ledley loft the ball towards the back post where Dann was unmarked, and he nodded the ball towards Glenn Murray but it narrowly evaded the striker who was perfectly-placed to bury the chance.
In first-half stoppage time the striker managed to receive the ball and swivelled to shoot but saw his effort blocked by Chris Smalling as the Eagles ended the half brightly but unable to test de Gea.
Once play restarted Murray rippled the side-netting when Pape Soaure whipped a cross in from the left-flank which the attacker could only prod wide and Palace had a penalty appeal turned down when Mata tripped half-time substitute Puncheon inside the area.
But on 56 minutes the winger did draw his side level. Murray won a free-kick when he was held by a United defender and from just outside the area Puncheon bent in a shot which flicked off Blind and deceived de Gea to see Selhurst erupt with noise.
That brought about a spell of dominance for the home side and they almost found a way in front five minutes later when a loose pass saw Puncheon play in James McArthur who made his way goalwards, but under pressure from Phil Jones scuffed a shot with the outside of his foot just past the post.
On 70 minutes de Gea was forced into one of the saves of the season. Murray flicked the ball onto Dann who laid it back into the striker’s path, and he looked to have beaten the United keeper when one-on-one but the Spanish shot-stopper showed great reactions to flick out a hand and divert the ball wide, and soon after he pushed away an effort from ex-Red Wilfried Zaha when he was found by McArthur at the back post.
But the tide turned and man of the match Young saw a shot deflect inches wide as the Champions League hopefuls pushed for a vital three points, and they managed to get themselves in front with quarter of an hour to play.
Young again was at the heart of things and it was his cross towards the far post which caused problems for Speroni who attempted to claim it despite a melee of Palace players in front of him, and Fellaini was on hand to simply head the ball into the unguarded net to put Louis van Gaal’s side back in front.
But they were made to work hard to retain their advantage and de Gea was forced into another terrific save when the unconventional pairing of Dann and Murray linked up yet again and the latter controlled the ball with his head before firing off a snap-volley which was blocked by the keeper’s legs.
Late on Speroni made a great save when Ander Herrera and Radamel Falcao played a one-two on the edge of the Eagles’ box but the midfielder’s side-footed volley was pushed over by the Palace stopper.
Palace: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, Jedinak (Lee 84), Ledley (Puncheon 46), Zaha (Chamakh 85), McArthur, Bolasie, Murray. Subs: Hennessey, Kelly, Mutch, Campbell.
Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Shaw (Evans 39), Blind, Herrera, Young, Fellaini, Mata, Rooney (Falcao 46). Subs: Valdes, McNair, Periera, Januzaj, Wilson.