Rash­ford the goal maker and taker as United stay in the hunt

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - Sam Wal­lace CHIEF FOOT­BALL WRITER at Sel­hurst Park

“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

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