United’s Champions League bid gathers pace with Palace win
LONDON, England—Manchester United’s pursuit of Champions League qualification gathered pace on Wednesday with a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace that put the team in a strong position to exploit any slip-ups by Arsenal or Manchester City.
With four games remaining, United is only two points behind third-place City and one behind Arsenal, which plays West Bromwich Albion on Thursday.
With United in touching distance of the top four Champions League places and through to the FA Cup semifinals, the season is not looking as bleak as it once did for manager Louis van Gaal.
United profited from an own goal in the fourth minute when Damien Delaney inadvertently turned a cross from Matteo Darmian into his own net. Darmian did manage to score his first goal since joining United last year, a stunning left-footed striker that hit the post on the way into the net in the 55th minute.
“We should have finished it much earlier and scored much more goals,” Van Gaal said. “We created a lot of chances.”
But what will have troubled United’s hierarchy were the thousands of empty seats inside the usually packed 76,000-seat Old Trafford.
Saturday’s semifinal opponent, Everton, is in turmoil after being crushed 4-0 by Liverpool in the Merseyside derby.
Headers from Divock Origi and Mamadou Sakho gave Liverpool the lead right at the end of the first half.
But five after the break, Origi was carried off on a stretcher after his left foot was stamped on by Ramiro Funes Mori, who was sent off.
“It’s not broken but the ankle is twisted so we have to see what happened to the ligaments,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said.
Liverpool’s other goals came from Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho’s 76th-minute strike.
Everton’s only win in the last eight games was in the FA Cup and the team’s progress in the competition could determine the fate of struggling manager Roberto Martinez.
The second semifinal on Sunday sees Palace play Watford, which rested many first-team regulars as it prepared for Wembley by losing 3-1 at West Ham.
Striker Andy Carroll opened the scoring with his ninth league goal of the season before captain Mark Noble netted two penalties.
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