Marouane Fellaini establishes himself as a Jose Mourinho favourite as Manchester United beat Crystal Palace

Manchester United 4 Crystal Palace 0: Romelu Lukaku kept up his phenomenal scoring record as Palace's awful start to the season continued

Mark Critchley
Old Trafford
Saturday 30 September 2017 16:53
Fellaini was superb in the win
Fellaini was superb in the win

The worrying thing for Roy Hodgson and Crystal Palace is just how predictable it is all becoming.

Of course, nobody expected a team that has made the worst-ever start to an English top-flight campaign to come to Old Trafford and beat an in-form Manchester United. It was thought that Jose Mourinho’s side would win at a canter and they did just that, through Juan Mata, a Marouane Fellaini brace and a customary goal for Romelu Lukaku.

Yet if Crystal Palace are to pick themselves up after this, a seventh straight defeat without even a single goal scored all season, they must start to play like a team capable of turning things around. After all, the odds on their Premier League status remaining intact are only lengthening.

The last side to lose seven consecutive games at the start of the season, Portsmouth’s class of 2010, finished rank last but they did, at the very least, win their eighth game. Palace, meanwhile, welcome champions Chelsea to Selhurst Park after the international break. It may only get worse before it gets better.

While on the other side of Manchester last Saturday, despite eventually losing 5-0, Hodgson’s side at least put up a respectable 44 minutes of stiff resistance. Here, their resolve lasted for just three.

Fellaini starred for United in the victory

Marcus Rashford toyed with Joel Ward momentarily after collecting the ball out on the left flank, but then turned him inside out with embarrassing ease. The teenager squared for Mata, who had time and space to place his composed effort past Hennessey.

United assumed control and began the search for their second, but not without allowing Palace to conjure up a few fleeting moments of promise. A spell of corners in quick succession tested Mourinho’s defence but the visitors’ first real shot in anger came when Bakary Sako, playing up front in lieu of a recognised striker, sent a rushed effort from a tight angle towards the near post, forcing David de Gea into a sharp save.

Any faint hope of Palace establishing a foothold vanished, however, minutes later when Fellaini doubled United’s lead, volleying in Ashley Young’s delightful cross from close range at the far post. In the away dugout, Hodgson offered just a bleak, blank thousand-yard stare. He and his players were now looking into the abyss.

Lukaku has 11 goals in 10 games in all competitions now

The only question now was whether United would match Manchester City by putting five past this hapless Palace outfit. Fellaini, a player whose status among the Old Trafford faithful continues to soar, notched his second in a similar fashion to his first just three minutes on from the re-start.

He did not need to do much to divert Marcus Rashford’s ferociously whipped free-kick past Hennessey and simply allowed the ball to cannon off his forehead from inside the six-yard box. It was not the most refined of goals but then it did not need to be. Do the simple things well and teams as poor as Palace will have little in the way of a response.

Juan Mata celebrates putting Manchester United ahead of Crystal Palace

With victory assured, the only disappointing aspect of United’s performance had been Lukaku’s lack of involvement. The Belgian started the game despite late fears over his fitness and he was hardly firing on all cylinders, badly miscuing one header and shanking an effort wide from an offside position later. But as is becoming the norm at Old Trafford, he eventually found his goal.

After flicking the ball on to Ander Herrera in midfield, Lukaku waited patiently while Anthoyn Martial went to work down the left. When the winger’s drilled cross evaded every Palace defender and left Hennessey stranded at the front post, Lukaku tapped in for his seventh goal in his first seven United league appearances.

“City scored five, how shit are you?”, asked a sarcastic away end in the moments before the final whistle. They had to laugh or they might cry.

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Young; Fellaini, Matic; Mata (Herrera 77), Mkhitaryan (Lingard 66), Rashford (Martial 72); Lukaku.

Substitutes not used: Romero, Bailly, Martial, Blind, Herrera, Darmian.

Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Hennessey; Ward, Sakho, Delaney, Van Aanholt; Townsend, Cabaye, Milivojevic, Puncheon (Riedewald 69), Schlupp (McArthur 68); Sako (Ladapo 74).

Substitutes not used: Speroni, Lee, Mutch, Kelly.

Referee: M Dean (Merseyside)

Attendance: 75,118

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