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Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester United: Red Devils see out tough win, stay alive in top 4 race

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A hard fought 2-0 win at Selhurst Park for Manchester United...

Crystal Palace v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Peter Cziborra/Pool via Getty Images

Manchester United were able to grind out a tough 2-0 agaisnt Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park Thursday night. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial again lead from the front for the Red Devils, but it wasn’t a comfortable ride for anyone involved.

The game began with a lack of intensity from Manchester United. Crystal Palace were able to get some early chances, but Maguire and Lindelof weren’t challenged too much in the area. David De Gea, who had a brilliant first half, had to bail out his side a couple times, but for the most part United controlled possession.

However, United weren't able to do too much with that possession. Palace did a good job slowing down play by drawing fouls and making harsh tackles themselves. Somehow they went on without any of their shithousers earning a yellow card, and United were clearly frustrated.

As United grew into the game after the first drinks break Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba found themselves on the ball more often. Though they weren’t as careless with possession as they were on Monday, Bruno still made a couple questionable decisions. He played 2 frustratingly short pass attempts that were intercepted, and let loose a wide shot from range with space and players still in front of him. Still, you could sense that United were building toward something, and all three of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood were doing well to get involved in buildup.

Rashford finally got the break through for United in the first minute of stoppage time at the end of the half. He nearly had the ball taken off him by Martial, and found himself in a difficult spot with Ward in front of him, but his cutback forced both Ward and Guaita to commit to their right, allowing Rashford to calmly slot it into the far corner. 1-0.

Palace nearly equalized with a free kick moments later, but De Gea made another fantastic save to deny Milivojevic. United would go in at the half 1-0 up thanks to the Spaniard’s heroics.

The second half started similar to the first, with Palace slowing down the game and drawing cheap fouls. Poor officiating rewarded them possession a couple times in the first half, and did so again in the second.

Bruno again struggled passing the ball forward, and had two very poor giveaways. The first was deep in Palace’s half of the pitch, but the second was around midfield. It was a giveaway in a dangerous position that led to a Zaha cross that Jordan Ayew turned in at the far post. He was unmarked by both Harry Maguire and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, but luckily the goal was overturned by VAR for offside.

Palace didn’t take a huge hit in terms of momentum though, and looked dangerous whenever they went forward. De Gea was again forced to save a shot from distance, and United were struggling to possess high up the pitch.

Martial and Rashford looked to be the most likely source of a spark on offense, and had some good exchanges. Rashford had a chance to double the lead, but Guaita was up for the save. Solskjaer recognizing a somewhat stagnating side in need of a change brought on Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingard for Scott McTominay and Mason Greenwood respectively.

Matic normally brings a bit of stability to possession, but even he looked a bit hesitant and shaky on the ball. If not for an errant pass he might have allowed Palace another opportunity on the counter by allowing himself to just be stripped of possession. Bruno started to get better looks in possession, and probably should have scored United’s second on a breakaway in the 74th minute, but hit the upright shooting at a very vulnerable Guaita at his mercy.

Luckily for Bruno he would get another breakaway opportunity just minutes later. Rashford brilliantly dribbled through Palace’s midfield, surrounded by 3 players, and found Bruno down the left. Bruno plays a nice pass back to Rashford, who sends Tony through to finish the movement brilliantly. 2-0. In an unfortunate moment, Patrick Van Aanholt got caught by Martial as he was falling down after the shot, and was caught by his leg. After several minutes on the ground the medical staff got the stretcher out and carried the Dutch full-back off the pitch.

United looked more confident with a 2-goal lead, and Jesse Lingard even looked like a bright addition to the side. Still though, Palace looked threatening when they did get the ball, and Zaha nearly got them one back in the 90th minute. De Gea got in the way with yet another save. The Spaniard was at his best today, and if not for his key saves it might have been 2-2 late in the match.

United were able to grind out the win after 90 +11 minutes. They’re still level with Leicester on points, but remain behind on goal difference.