Two first half goals in the space of four minutes saw Palace’s 2016/17 Premier League campaign end in defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Having survived relegation the week before, Sam Allardyce and his players can still feel pleased with their efforts in the second half of the season, ultimately rendering this final fixture a dead rubber which saw
Josh Harrop and Paul Pogba net the goals that claimed victory for the hosts.
Results elsewhere meant that Palace finished in 14th position, seven points clear of the drop-zone which they would have happily accepted just a few months ago.
It was 12 months to the day that the two sides had faced off in the FA Cup final, but with another chance of a trophy on the horizon, United’s starting XI was vastly different to the one that beat Palace at Wembley.
Jose Mourinho selected a number of fresh-faced youngsters mixed with a touch of star power ahead of their Europa League final meeting with Ajax on Wednesday, but the blend gelled quickly to carve out the game’s opening chance on 11 minutes when debutant left-back Demitri Mitchell picked out Wayne Rooney, but the Red Devils’ all-time leading scorer lobbed the ball over Wayne Hennessey but only onto the roof of the net.
However, just three minutes later it was bulging as Mourinho’s men bagged the opener through another first-team debutant. A fine pass by Pogba with the outside of his foot released Harrop who sped into the area, cut inside Martin Kelly and had time to compose himself before firing past Hennessey to mark his United debut in style.
And four minutes after that, the world’s most expensive player found a second to give Palace a mountain to climb. Jesse Lingard showed some strong, direct running to take the ball from the halfway line to the edge of the box, and then played it into the path on the on-rushing Pogba. Joel Ward couldn’t quite intercept it, allowing the Frenchman to slide home the chance and reduce the Eagles’ chances of a claiming a first ever Premier League win against the Red Devils to a slim possibility.
It continued to be one-way traffic following the passing of the half-hour mark and Harrop again went close when he tried to curl the ball into the top corner after a sustained period of home possession, with Palace’s only threatening moments of the opening half coming at either end of it, when two last-ditch tackles from Eric Bailly denied Patrick van Aanholt and Ivory Coast teammate Wilfried Zaha the chance to test rookie keeper Joel Pereira.
Things were much better for the Eagles after the restart, and nine minutes in the second half they nearly got back into it when Zaha managed to send a cross towards the far post where Christian Benteke was waiting, and he craned back his neck to guide a header goalwards but saw it strike the post before being cleared.
Before the game, rumours were swirling that it could be Rooney’s Old Trafford swansong and you could sense his desperation to get on the scoresheet from the first whistle, and he nearly achieved that but at the wrong end when he was fortunate to see his attempted clearance from a Bakary Sako free-kick flash past the post, and a minute later Luka Milivojevic saw a screwed effort fly well over.
The Serbian then called Pereira into action for the first time on 76 minutes when he bent a free-kick around the wall but the young Portuguese stopper produced a diving catch to stop it creeping in, but with the minutes ticking down towards the end of the league season there was very little further action, with the withdrawal of Rooney to a standing ovation the only other moment of note as another helter-skelter season for Palace came to its conclusion.
Manchester United: Pereira, Fosu-Mensah, Jones, Bailly, Mitchell, Tuanzebe, McTominay, Pogba (Carrick 45), Rooney (Gomes 88), Lingard (Martial 45), Harrop. Subs: O'Hara, Blind, Willock, Dearnley.
Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Kelly, Tomkins, Schlupp, Zaha (Campbell 79), Milivijevic, McArthur (Sako 61), Puncheon, Van Aanholt (Kaikai 67), C. Benteke. Subs: Speroni, Dann, Lee, Wan-Bissaka.