Home » EPL, Featured, Latest » Match Report: Man United 2 Crystal Palace 0

Sometimes, the least interesting thing about a football game is the result.Manchester United beat Crystal Palace, but that much was in little doubt from the moment that referee Jon Moss decided to grant the home side a penalty and dock the away side a player. The real value was to be found in the sub-plots, on a day when images of United’s past collided with glimpses of their future.

So 50 years to the day since George Best made his United debut, on came Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj to do the same. As Sir Alex Ferguson watched sagely from the directors’ box, his successor David Moyes earned his first competitive win at Old Trafford. That the decisive moment resulted from a questionable refereeing decision merely went to show that not everything changes.

That moment arrived in the 44th minute, after a misplaced pass by Mile Jedinak in his own half. Ashley Young dashed onto the loose ball, advanced on the penalty area, gratefully accepted the shoulder charge from Kagisho Dikgacoi and collapsed like a fallen soldier at the Somme. Whatever he did, Moss was faced with a decision that would shape the match.

For a player of such evident talent, Young’s fascination with the floor is still one of the more puzzling facets of his game. Many times he will find himself in a strong position yet still opt to sink into the loving embrace of the lush, lush grass. In the 18th minute, he had cut in from the left, skipped past Dikgacoi and flicked his left foot out to ensure contact. He was booked for diving, which was fair enough.

So now Moss had two choices: show Young a red card for a second act of simulation, or show Dikgacoi a red card for the professional foul. Perhaps it is not surprising that he chose the latter. There was also some doubt over whether the offence had taken place inside the penalty box. Moss consulted his assistant, thought for some seconds, and then pointed at the spot. Robin van Persie converted.

In fairness, United had already begun to impose themselves by that point.

Van Persie, the best player on the pitch by a mile, could already have scored twice: first with an outrageous back-heel at the near post, then with a volley against the crossbar after a superb piece of control on his chest.

But when it comes to chest control, one man stands alone. So in the 62nd minute, on came disco king Fellaini, to gleeful chants of “Who’s the Scouser in the wig?” from the Palace fans. He had a quiet game, seemingly content to ease himself into proceedings, but did force a sharp save from Julián Speroni with a dipping shot from distance. His fellow Belgian Januzaj did better still, the 18-year-old winger looking quick, dynamic and fleet of foot. A real find.

Sensing not the slightest threat from the visitors, United went into Champions League wind-down mode. Young was substituted. Van Persie was substituted. Rooney stayed on, perhaps surprisingly for a man unable to play for his country in midweek because his head was split in two.

But clad in a fetching black headband that made him look like an Eccles karate teacher, it was he who provided the final flourish, curling a 25-yard free-kick into the bottom corner nine minutes from time.

So, what did we learn? Not a lot. United still look short of a player who can unpick a deep-set defence. Anderson, thrust into that role on Saturday, was poor. Shinji Kagawa remained absent with what was described as “mild flu”. Sensei Rooney will improve with time.

What of Palace? They defended well, but looked toothless going forward, with both 10 men and 11. Dwight Gayle wasted their only clear chance, Jedinak was some way short of his usual dominant self and Jason Puncheon kept running into dead-ends.

Palace manager Ian Holloway, serving the first half of a two-match touchline ban, spent most of the afternoon barking instructions into a headset like an irate TV director.

“We’re trying to learn how to deal with an occasion like this,” he said.

“Now we’re in the big league, we have to try and impose ourselves. With the ball, we weren’t very good.”

Still, they had little to lose, and ultimately little to offer but a string of imaginative chants. “We’ll race you back to London,” they goaded the United fans as full-time approached, and despite their side’s defeat there was a commendable jollity to them throughout. They are a club, after all, who have been in administration twice, relegated from the Premier League four times, and signed Itzik Zohar. If you cannot enjoy a trip to Old Trafford after all that, then you clearly follow the wrong sport.

Sometimes, the result really is the least important thing of all.

Source: Telegraph

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