Man United ride their luck, but Rooney's role fades
Late winner seals victory for 'old-school' United as officials have a night to forget at Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace 1 Man United 2
Jose Mourinho has bemoaned Manchester United's luck of late, but his side enjoyed the rub of the green at Crystal Palace yesterday and even managed to secure all three points with a late winner from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The striker's goal made it two wins out of two and extended an unbeaten league run to seven games.
United were lucky to finish with 11 men after Marcus Rojo's two-footed challenge in the first half – his second in as many games – went unpunished and they equally fortunate to take the lead when the officials failed to notice scorer Paul Pogba was offside and Ibrahimovic had handled the ball.
But the game didn't entirely go United's way. A goal was incorrectly ruled out for offside in the second half and referee Craig Pawson missed a blatant handball by Joe Ledley in the box.
But in the end, it was an "old-school" outcome, says Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph, with United scoring a winner in the dying moments of the match and Mourinho celebrating as he used to at Chelsea.
"But, boy, how the match officials need to go back to school after this one," he says. "Controversy? It does not begin to sum up the contentious decisions, questionable calls and arguable moments. Even former referee Howard Webb conceded that Craig Pawson 'had one of those nights'. That was an understatement."
Most observers believe Rojo has the most to be thankful for after his second two-footed lunge in the space of a few days – this time on Wilfried Zaha – was missed by the officials, but he was later defended by Mourinho, who said he was an "emotional but very clean" player.
It was a night Mourinho would have enjoyed, says Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail. "The Manchester United manager loves a scrap, and this war of attrition certainly fell into that category."
But it also showed that his methods are starting to yield results. His side had a "ruthless streak", says Dominic Fifield of The Guardian. "Mourinho had seen his team's dominance yield only draws too often of late, but here they did what this club used to do as a matter of course."
The winner, made by Pogba and finished by Ibrahimovic, was "created by the contest's most influential performer and scored by a forward who has always delighted in stamping his influence all over occasions such as this".
There was also praise for Wayne Rooney, who "justified his inclusion in the Manchester United line-up with a lively display", according to Jack Rathborn of the Daily Mirror. However, Adam Crafton of the Mail laments the fact that in a world dominated by Ibrahimovic and Pogba, the once-great Rooney has been "reduced to part of the support cast".
"He did a disciplined job, with an eye as much towards his own goal as that of this shaky Crystal Palace defence... But is this all that Wayne Rooney can be now? The willing dogsbody, the sacrifice for greater talents to shine."