Marouane Fellaini took advantage of a goalkeeping howler as Manchester United overcame a wobble to win 2-1 at Crystal Palace and close in on Champions League qualification.
The Belgian midfielder guided into an empty net 12 minutes from time after Julian Speroni failed to deal with Ashley Young’s cross. Jason Puncheon had come off the bench to level with a deflected free kick for the Eagles following Juan Mata’s first-half opener from the spot.
The Red Devils had missed their previous two penalties and had not scored in three matches until the Spaniard coolly converted from 12 yards after Scott Dann was adjudged to have handled Young’s centre.
The result means United end a run of three straight defeats and are now seven points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool. They will qualify for next season’s Champions League if the Merseysiders lose at champions Chelsea on Sunday.
Van Gaal had been deprived of Angel Di Maria (training injury) and Robin van Persie (virus) in the lead up to the game and they suffered more woe when Luke Shaw was carried off on a stretcher following a first-half head injury.
Wayne Rooney also picked up a knock and did not return for a barnstorming second period which saw David De Gea produce two astonishing saves to keep out Glenn Murray as Palace pressed.
The impressive Puncheon also had a big penalty shout turned down when Mata appeared to clip him in the area but the Eagles could not snare the second equaliser their performance probably deserved and they were left to lament Speroni’s moment of madness.
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