Man United shoot down the Eagles.

Image: Reuters

Only a few weeks ago all was rosy in the Manchester United world, having just beaten neighbours Manchester City 4-2 at Old Trafford and extending the winning streak to six games, all the talk was of United finishing second in the premier league.

Move on to today and a difficult away game on paper at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace, with United struggling to score and after three consecutive defeats to Chelsea, Everton and West Brom, fourth place was not even guaranteed.

With Southampton and Tottenham both losing in their earlier games, United were guaranteed European football next season of some sorts, whether that only be Europa league.

What a difference a few weeks make. Gary Neville was saying United only needed three players next season, so good was the squad during the six game run, yet recently as things were not going so good people are slagging off some players and even doubting the manager, Louis Van Gaal.

Maybe that is the world we live in today with people being able to have their say on social media, but supporters would have taken fourth at the start of the season and United are only a win away in reality with Liverpool unlikely to win all their remaining games with tough games at Chelsea and Stoke to come for them.

Once again United started well at Selhurst Park but that means nothing if recent games are to go by with the Reds having as much as 80% possession in games yet creating very little. Ashley Young, a victim of the boo boys today was working hard on the left wing, with little coming from United`s right side early on. Juan Mata was high up the pitch with Wayne Rooney roaming around from up front to midfield.

David De Gea hardly touched the ball in the first twenty minutes, but the returning Luke Shaw looked rusty returning from another injury. This last time he played was in London against Chelsea and had a great game, but typical of his first season at Old Trafford Shaw ended up going off before half time with another injury. The hope has to be that Shaw has an injury free pre-season and can finally cement his place in the United defence, but this season has been one to forget for the ex-Southampton man.

Young went on a run down the left and dumped one Palace defender on his backside before putting in a cross that Scott Dann leant into with his arm or was it his shoulder?

The linesman had no chance of seeing the contact from where he was, but referee Michael Oliver was well placed and immediately pointed to the penalty spot.

For long periods of the season, United could not buy a penalty yet now they have been awarded a few, they have struggled to convert them. First Rooney at Anfield and Van Persie against the Baggies at Old Trafford so today the responsibility was given to Juan Mata who duly slotted his penalty away into the bottom left hand corner, 0-1 to United.

The goal appeared to wake Palace up who started to cause the United defence problems with a few corners and scrambles in the penalty area, suddenly De Gea was busy in goal. With Zaha on one side and Bolasie on another, Palace would always be a threat especially with Zaha having a point to prove against his ex-employers.

Rooney appeared in the wars in the last fifteen minutes of the first half and the hope was that United`s captain would use the half time break to get over his knocks but that was not the case as Radamel Falcao replaced Rooney at the start of the second half. Louis Van Gaal started the second half having already used two substitutions with Jonny Evans replacing the luckless Shaw before half time.

Whether it was manager Alan Pardew`s half time team talk or the strong wind, Palace started the second half on the front foot and United were poor. Jason Puncheon went down dramatically in the penalty area when challenged by Mata wanting a penalty but referee Oliver gave nothing which was the correct decision, however, Puncheon would get his goal moments later with a great free kick, bringing the Eagles deservedly level.

Palace continued to be a threat on the break with Murray, Zaha and Puncheon just like Everton were the other week with Lukaku, Barkley and McCarthy but United started to get a hold of the ball but some of the decision making was poor with long high balls hit up to Falcao who was never going to win them.

As the game became more stretched, De Gea kept his side in the game with a superb stop as Murray was only a few feet away looked to have scored but the strength in De Gea`s right hand diverted the shot away. Once again, Young was beating his marker down the left and almost scored but his shot was deflected out for a corner.

A few moments later, Young skipped past the Palace defence and set up Mata who put it over. You sensed if United were going to get something out of this game, it would come from Young. On 77 minutes, Young again crossed for Fellaini to nod home into an empty net as Speroni lost the cross. The Belgian ran over to a jubilant away end and United were back in front.

Palace relied on long balls into United`s penalty area but De Gea dealt with everything in the air and United tested Palace on the break with Young again hugging the touchline and beating the boo boys with a man of the match performance.

United saw out the four minutes of added time and managed to get over the line with a far from vintage performance but with a seven point lead over Liverpool who visit champions Chelsea tomorrow, this time on Sunday, United could be in the Champions league.

Sometimes you win games not playing well and this was one such game. A big three points that stops the slide and Palace`s season is slowly petering out despite a great season for them. My man of the match goes to Ashley Young who made things happen today and was involved in both goals that sealed a huge win for the red devils.

Ian Hope @Fromtwelveyards

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