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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week