A much-changed Palace side couldn’t end their Old Trafford Premier League hoodoo as Manchester United ran out victors by a 2-0 scoreline.
An early Damien Delaney own goal gave the Red Devils the lead at the break and they doubled their advantage through a fine strike from Matteo Darmian after the restart to clinch their seventh straight win against the Eagles on their own turf in this division.
The scoreline could have been larger had it not been for the recalled Julian Speroni, who made a number of fine saves during the encounter on his first start since last May, however it wasn’t enough to extend the four game unbeaten run as momentum stalled ahead of the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday.
Things got off to the worst possible start for the Eagles as they went behind after just four minutes. Darmian pushed his way down the left and put a low cross into the area which looked to be aimless, however Delaney inadvertently steered it past the helpless Speroni and into the net to hand the hosts the lead.
Four minutes later the recalled Argentinian saved an effort from last season’s matchwinner Juan Mata, but Palace had a great chance to pull level on 12 minutes when Chung-yong Lee pulled the ball back for Emmanuel Adebyaor but the striker could only poke it wide when well positioned.
Anthony Martial was next to warm the gloves of Speroni midway through the first half but he was showing no rustiness in his first appearance in nearly a year as he pushed away the Frenchman’s curling effort and then gathered a low Wayne Rooney blast a couple of minutes later.
It was all United in the first half and Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard completed a full set of attempts from Louis van Gaal’s front five but both were easily dealt with by the Palace stopper, however he had to be at his best to make a terrific save on 39 minutes when Martial snuck through the Eagles’ backline and drilled the ball towards the target but Speroni managed to dive through the air and divert it away for a corner.
In the second half the theme continued and Mata again tested Speroni who blocked his shot after the ball broke free in the box following Adrian Mariappa’s challenge on Rashford, but the resulting corner would lead to United’s second goal.
Daley Blind delivered into the area and it was cleared seemingly to safety by the head of Delaney, however Darmian controlled it with his chest before smashing it from inside the D towards goal and the left-back saw it cannon off the inside the post before finding the other side of the net.
Despite being two goals down, Speroni was determined not to allow things to get any worse and he was excellent in making a brilliant double save when Rashford squared for Lingard but the Eagles custodian saved with his body, before flinging himself in front of the young United striker’s follow up.
There was a bright moment for Alan Pardew as James McArthur came on for the final 25 minutes ahead of the semi-final on Sunday, but the latter stages of the game petered out with both sides making changes with the weekend’s semi-finals on the horizon.
Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Lingard (Herrera 72), Schneiderlin, Mata, Rooney (Fellaini 78), Martial, Rashford (Memphis 64). Subs not used: Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Rojo, Young.
Palace: Speroni, Kelly, Mariappa, Delaney, Souare, Jedinak, Cabaye (McArthur 66), Lee (Mutch 60), Zaha, Sako, Adebayor (Wickham 75). Subs not used: McCarthy, Dreher, Puncheon, Campbell.