Man Utd 1 Crystal Palace 0
Manchester United 1 Crystal Palace 0, Old Trafford, English Premier League, November 8, 2014. Louis van Gaal was left beaming as second half substitute Juan Mata hit the winner for Manchester United in a 1-0 home triumph over Crystal Palace. Mata found the net in the 67th minute of the match when he hammered home an unstoppable left-foot shot.
After losing by 1-0 against neighbours Manchester City in a closely contested Premier League derby battle at Etihad Stadium the previous weekend, Louis van Gaal´s men played hosts to Crystal Palace, who for their part had suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Sunderland at their Selhurst Park home in their last Premiership fixture. In the corresponding Premier League meeting of the 2013-14 season on the 14th of September 2013, Manchester United had managed to overcome the South Londoners by a comfortable 2-0 margin at Old Trafford courtesy of a goal each from forwards Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in the 45th and 81st minutes of the contest respectively. United had won three, drawn four, and lost three of their opening ten Premiership games of the 2014-15 campaign, whereas the Croydon team had won two, drawn three, and lost five of their Premier League fixtures so far. Manchester United were missing several key players for the clash with Crystal Palace, however, including Radamel Falcao, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, and Rafael da Silva, who were all out because of various injuries, while Chris Smalling found himself suspended for the game after being on the receiving end of two yellow cards for mindless and unnecessary challenges on Manchester City´s Joe Hart and James Milner during the first half of The Manchester Derby. As for Crystal Palace, Selhurst Park boss Neil Warnock had to manage without the services of Mile Jedinak, Stuart O’Keefe, and Wilfried Zaha, who were all sidelined with different injury problems, but Damien Delaney was finally returning to match action again.
Crystal Palace had yet to defeat Manchester United in the Premier League and the Old Trafford men were heavy favourites to emerge victorious from the clash with the South Londoners despite their lack of form. United nearly put their noses in front after just a couple of minutes through Belgian international winger Adnan Januzaj who fired a powerful shot from outside the eighteen-yard box, only to see his effort go inches over the crossbar. Manchester United continued to launch attacks and had a string of quality chances as the first period progressed, but the hosts failed to find the net before the break. Following the half-time refreshments, Rooney and Marouane Fellaini both went close without scoring, but midway through the second frame Juan Mata emerged from the dark obscurity of the substitutes´ bench to notch up the winning and only goal of the tie as the Spaniard powered a ferocious effort from outside the penalty area past away shot stopper Julian Speroni and into the net seven minutes past the hour mark, and with only seven minutes left of normal time the former Stamford Bridge ace came close to netting again when his late shot hit the vertical post.
The narrow home win over Crystal Palace was Manchester United’s first victory in four Premiership matches, and Van Gaal told the waiting press following the tussle with The Eagles that he was well pleased with the performance of his players. After beating Palace, United now found themselves sitting seventh in the Premier League table with sixteen points from eleven games played so far, one point adrift of sixth placed Arsenal, and two points short of Swansea City in fifth position. Jose Mourinho´s Chelsea remained table toppers, however, with an impressive twenty-nine points, four points ahead of second positioned Southampton. Manchester United Team: David de Gea, Luke Shaw, Paddy McNair, Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia, Marouane Fellaini, Angel Di Maria, Daley Blind, Adnan Januzaj, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney. Substitutes: Marnick Vermijl, Ander Herrera, Tyler Blackett, Darren Fletcher, Juan Mata, James Wilson, Anders Lindegaard. Crystal Palace Team: Julian Speroni, Joel Ward, Scott Dann, Adrian Mariappa, Damien Delaney, James McArthur, Joe Ledley, Jason Puncheon, Yannick Bolasie, Fraizer Campbell, Marouane Chamakh. Substitutes: Kevin Doyle, Ezekiel Fryers, Martin Kelly, Paddy McCarthy, Barry Bannan, Dwight Gayle, Wayne Hennessey.