Lethal Scholes puts gloss on it

Manchester United 5 - Crystal Palace 2

The time had long past for Manchester United to get their skates on to catch Chelsea - they need rockets under their boots to do that. But at least they lit the fuse last night with a win that fairly crackled and fizzed with energy, incident and, yes, goal after goal, but never exploded into anything utterly convincing.

In fact, you would need the opposite adjective to describe the United defence, who simply do not seem to know when a game is won. Twice they allowed Palace to equalise and if it had not been for two goals from the irrepressible Paul Scholes, as well as a vintage Ryan Giggs performance, the points they managed to throw away against Fulham last Monday could conceivably have been in danger of being replicated here.

Indeed, despite the overwhelming scoreline, it was anything but glory, glory on a day when Ruud van Nistelrooy's injury was revealed to be worse than first feared. "It was the calf but now it's the Achilles," said Sir Alex Ferguson. "The recommended treatment is therapy and doing a complete rehab on his injury. Hopefully, it's four weeks or six weeks at the very most but we don't know for certain."

And then there was Wayne Rooney, who was forced to continue his long education yesterday (amazing - he is still learning at 19). Yesterday's lesson was "how to miss a penalty" and didn't he he do well when he stepped up in the eighth minute and weakly sidefooted into the corner of the goal where Gabor Kiraly's outstretched arm happened to be? Cue the red mist, which seems to be precariously positioned just above Rooney's eyes, ready to drop at the slightest rattling. Within a few seconds, Rooney was leaping on to the back of Gonzalo Sorondo, who had the effrontery to stand in his way.

Fortunately for United, the ball did not go near the vicinity of their boy blunder for 10 minutes but when it did he showed us why he is who he is with a wicked ball across the box that was too good even for his own attackers. He was chasing quickfire redemption, but when the goal arrived after 22 minutes, it was that old favourite Scholes who reminded us why he is who he is with a silky piece of footwork in the six-yard box to escape his markers and fire high into Kiraly's goal. He had started the move too, his short corner played to Giggs, who fed Roy Keane, the captain then anticipating Scholes's run into the box with a perfectly-weighted pass.

In true Old Trafford fashion the floodgates were thus opened, but strangely the tide was not heading in one direction. Palace had not managed a goal here since someone called Iain Dowie scored, and perhaps still tasting the elixir of that strike all those years ago, he urged his men forward to grab their own slice of south-east London history. The unexpected equaliser came from an equally unexpected source. Danny Granville, the full-back who crudely brought down Darren Fletcher to concede the penalty, was on a giddying excursion upfield in the 27th minute when he managed to follow up his own deflected header off Wayne Routledge's cross to drill past Roy Carroll. Joy unrestrained.

But only for eight minutes. After Kiraly had performed more heroics first to keep out a Keane piledriver and then one from Scholes, it was obvious that something had to give. And when Alan Smith's cushioned header, off a Scholes corner, flew towards the top right-hand corner, there was nothing the Hungarian could do. Order restored, or so they thought.

To lose one lead at old Trafford is inexcusable, but to lose two can only be fully explained by an expletive from Ferguson's lexicon. With 50 seconds of the second-half gone, Michael Hughes swung in a cross from the right that found Joonas Kolkka all on his own in the six-yard box to head in. Where was the defence? Nowhere near where it should have been, that's for sure.

Alas, not two minutes later, the Palace defender Emmerson Boyce was exactly where he should have been when Giggs's cross came into the area - on Scholes's shoulder. Wrong time, wrong place; the ball diverting off the hapless Boyce into his own net. There was more. Another minute, another goal - the third in four minutes - when Scholes linked on to Smith's flick header before blasting past the by-now stricken Kiraly.

At last Old Trafford could rest easy and although Palace courageously pressed on - Carroll making one fine save off Routledge - United were toying with them, with Rooney, in particular, in full Gameboy mode. Rio Ferdinand somehow put a header over an empty goal, Smith saw an audacious scissor-kick scrape paint and John O'Shea turned in Giggs's cross in stoppage time to apply the icing. But you feel the cake will only be served when the gap with Chelsea becomes anything like bridgeable.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
people

Far-right organisation has defended its actions on Facebook

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music

Animal welfare charities have urged the boy band to cut the scenes

News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker