Rashford the goal maker and taker as United stay in the hunt
“Is Var broken? Serious question” tweeted the Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish in despair at halftime and he was about to find out that while the system was indeed operating, whether it is broken in the wider sense remains an unanswered question.
There were arguments made both ways for the penalty Palace were denied that prompted the Parish tweet, and then the toenail’s breadth offside decision that cancelled out a second-half equaliser with the score 1-0.
The victory keeps Manchester United in fifth place, level on 62 points with fourth-placed Leicester City and one behind Chelsea in third. They are in the hunt for the Champions League places and the final game of the season in nine days against Leicester might be a straight shoot-out for fourth or better.
Project Restart has delivered as many favourable Var decisions for United as it was claimed the referees once did at Old Trafford for Sir Alex Ferguson. Against Aston Villa last week it was the Bruno FerAll
penalty and this time it was Wilfried Zaha who was denied a penalty in the final minutes of the first half, enraging Palace. It will not help Mike Riley, the man responsible for the Premier League officials, that the referee on this occasion was Graham Scott, who was also the Var at Villa Park.
“It’s a stonewall nailed on penalty even the most one-eyed Man U fan knows it” was Parish’s followup observation on Twitter and, by the end of the game, he was deep in talk with his United counterpart Ed Woodward, with Var presumably high on the agenda. Woodward must be in favour: the Var review that saw Jordan Ayew’s second-half equaliser chalked off was the seventh goal against United that has been overturned this season.
The Zaha decision was more contentious – there was contact with Victor Lindelof. It did divide pundits and one can only imagine that Simon Hooper thought that the collision between the two, brought on by Zaha’s quicksilver stepover did not reach the clear and obvious threshold and so upheld the decision.
Within moments of that decision, Marcus Rashford had scored United’s first, his 17th of the season and more than he has scored in the past two seasons combined. It continued a good week for the Englishman who learnt on Wednesday he will become the youngest person to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester for his campaign against child poverty.
When Anthony Martial added the second on 78 minutes, constructed by Rashford and Fernandes, the game was over for Palace but they had been in it long enough to have some serious regrets. The first goal had come in the aftermath of the Zaha decision in the same passage of play with the ball refusing to go out.
United worked an opening and Rashford doubled back on to his right foot to put it past Vicente Guaita. It was a bad end to a good first half from Palace in which they had been adventurous. Zaha had been the standout player with United backing off him. By the end of the game the Palace man’s frustrations were at boiling point and Paul Pogba was left to shepherd him away from confrontation.
With Zaha’s former team-mate, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, doing his best at right-back, at left-back, United had Timothy Fosu-Mensah. It was his first game for the club since May 21 2017, the last day of that season when he played for United against Palace. He would go on loan to Selhurst Park the following season and then Fulham the year after. Now 22, he broke through at United under Louis van Gaal. He has spent most of this season in rehabilitation from a cruciate ligament injury.
Roy Hodgson’s players did not try to press United’s centre-backs in possession although there were times when they were so eager that their manager had to remind them to hold back. Instead they invited United to try to pass their way through midfield and in the first half United struggled with that. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had the danger of Zaha on his mind, constantly calling Scott McTominay back into a position where he might be able to deal with the Palace attacker if needed.
Hodgson’s players got most of it right. There was not much to remember about Pogba’s game. Mason Greenwood was marginalised. Fernandes tried to force himed’s self into the game but United found it hard to reach him in the pocket behind the front three.
It was Zaha who created the disallowed goal scored by Ayew after half-time, the Palace winger bewitching the United defence before crossing to the back post. They were lining up for the kick-off when Hooper, the Var, announced his review. The lines were painfully close but Ayew was just offside.
There was a bad shoulder injury for Patrick van Aanholt when Martial stroked in the second for United. He was carried off on a stretcher to the applause of a Selhurst Park stadium that could not take any more bad news.
Perfect timing: Marcus Rashford slams in United’s opener on the stroke of half-time