With Manchester United failing to keep a clean sheet in 12 home league matches before today, they were loathe to take many risks, and with Crystal Palace predictably focusing on getting men behind the ball, it took until 26 minutes for the first major chance to arrive, when Bruno Fernandes fired a rocket towards the corner of Vicente Guaita’s net, only for the Spaniard to execute a stunning save.
United were vastly superior in the first half, with former Dortmund man Jadon Sancho looking particularly lively. Despite this, Crystal Palace were no bit players either, with a shot from Jordan Ayew just before HT signifying the Eagles’ intent to make it three straight wins at Old Trafford, and not merely escape the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ with a point.
Many expected the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo to emerge strongly following a lackustre first half, but instead it was Palace who imposed themselves better in the first 15 minutes after the restart. They kept a bulk of the possession in the second half, and prevented any clear-cut chances for the ‘Red Devils’. That was until the 69th minute, when an Alex Telles strike saw a free kick crash off the crossbar for yet another Palace reprieve.
That flashpoint saw Man United rediscover their first-half dominance, and they finally netted the matchwinner with just a little over a quarter-hour to play. Some inspired play by substitute Mason Greenwood released Fred in space on the edge of the box. The Brazilian saw Guaita off his line and struck home into the top-left corner.
Palace offered no response, and Ralf Rangnick’s men obliged to give him a winning start at Old Trafford, though the ‘Red Devils remain well adrift of the title race going into the festive period