That’s more like it from Manchester United. In much the same fashion as we were against Fulham in the 2-2 draw, Manchester United were comfortably the best team in the first half.
Palace were happy to sit deep and invite United forward, so we obliged and played some really positive football. Instead of forcing the ball out wide, we attempted to break Palace down through the middle. We created chances but our finishing was poor.
The trend continued in the second half with United controlling the game and we were finally rewarded for our efforts when Van Persie confidently converted a penalty after Evra was brought down.
Soon after, United made it 2-0 through a stunning half volley from Rooney and all of a sudden, we looked like scoring with every attack. Not long after, Van Persie hit the bar and Palace were really on the back foot.
As it transpired, there were no more goals but United didn’t need any. That second half was a fantastic performance and United deserved the win.
The difference a goal can make is amazing. Up until Van Persie’s penalty, United were lackadaisical in attack and Palace were comfortable in defence because of it. However, we looked like a completely different team thereafter.
We attacked with impetus, pace and purpose. We looked like scoring with every attack and it was all because of the confidence Van Persie’s penalty had injected into the veins of the team.
United can be flexible in attack. Crystal Palace set up exactly like Fulham did at Old Trafford a couple of weeks ago – they were happy to sit deep and invite United forward to defend in numbers.
However, instead of relying exclusively on crosses for chance creation, United played a very different game. Mata and Rooney were flexible with their positions, regularly switching between them, and it gave United a dynamic threat through the middle we haven’t possessed for a while.
In the end, it paid dividends as we won our penalty through playing the ball inside and that changed the game. With that front four of Rooney, Van Persie, Mata and Januzaj, it would have been illegal to rely on crossing – thankfully, we didn’t.
Fellaini deserves plaudits. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity on the sidelines, Fellaini made a return to team and he did very well.
Having a midfielder running with the ball towards the opposition box was a forgotten feeling among United fans but Fellaini did that and more today. It was an impressive box-to-box performance from the Belgian.
Tackles, interceptions, passing and the occasional surge forward, he filled a midfield role that United so desperately need to be better in and did it well.
Sure, it wasn’t a barnstorming performance and he won’t steal the headlines but on his first game back, Fellaini deserves some credit.
Moyes got it spot on today. The line-up ticked all the right boxes with that attacking front four and the return of Fellaini was a real boost for United. Tactically, it was a vastly improved match too as we focused on playing passing football and eventually, we reaped the rewards.
What the second half showed is that the players’ performances are responsible for making tactics look good or bad. Nothing was different between the two halves apart from some more clinical finishing and passing.
United fans should take heart from today’s game because there have been plenty of times this season where we had been in a similar, frustrating situation as were today against Palace but instead of folding, we pushed on and earned the win.