Manchester United defies injury crisis to beat Palace 3-1
LONDON— Manchester United made light of its injury crisis by winning 3-1 at Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Wednesday, with Romelu Lukaku scoring two of the goals on his return to the team.
Lukaku had gone nine games without a goal and was becoming a more peripheral figure at United since the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has preferred Marcus Rashford as the sole striker.
With Rashford not fit to start and wide players Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard also injured, United was without its entire first-choice front three as well as key midfielders Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera.
Lukaku recovered from missing a glorious early chance to score in each half and help keep United a point behind fourth-place Arsenal in the fight for Champions League qualification. A further goal from Ashley Young, after Joel Ward had responded for 14th-place Palace, ensured United continued the momentum it will hope to carry into next week’s Champions League match at Paris Saint-Germain.
United trails 2-0 from the first leg.
If Palace had taken confidence from United’s dwindling options, which also meant rare starts for Fred and Alexis Sanchez, the hosts were vulnerable, too, without injured defenders Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Mamadou Sakho.
Lukaku should have taken advantage of Palace’s uncertainty at the back when, in the eighth minute, Luke Shaw’s corner found the striker in space directly in front of goal but he somehow volleyed over.
Andros Townsend twice threatened for Palace — on both occasions he shot narrowly wide — before Lukaku put United in front in the 33rd minute after Shaw again put him into space. Lukaku this time showed greater composure to take a touch before curling first time into the bottom right corner.
Jeffrey Schlupp almost produced an immediate response for Palace when he glanced wide from close range but further poor defending undermined the home side as Lukaku extended United’s lead in the 52nd.
Paul Pogba missed a header before Victor Lindelof found Lukaku, who held off James Tomkins to smartly finish over goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
Palace’s goal came through Ward in the 66th minute when Schlupp collected a loose ball on the left and beat David De Gea by crossing to Ward at the back post, leaving the defender with a near-open goal in which to send his diving header.
United was clinical in delivering a third goal in the 83rd minute.
Lukaku was again involved, exchanging passes with Pogba before the midfielder fed Young into space at the back post. United’s captain calmly finished low beyond Guaita.
In stoppage time, Ward kicked the ball from De Gea’s grasp and into the net after a header from Christian Benteke, but referee Martin Atkinson ruled out the goal.
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