LONDON Manchester United kept a place in the Premier League top four in their own hands as goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial and a helping hand from VAR earned a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men remain in fifth, but by extending an unbeaten run to 19 games in all competitions move back level on points with Leicester, who they face on the final day of the season, and to within one point of third-placed Chelsea.
United rarely hit the heights of recent weeks against a Palace side that have now lost six games on the spin. The visitors twice had VAR reviews go their way as Wilfried Zaha was denied a penalty just before Rashford’s opener and Jordan Ayew had an equaliser ruled out for offside.
Solskjaer bemoaned having 48 hours less preparation time than Chelsea for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final, but that made little difference to the Norwegian’s team selection with only two changes from the side that started Monday’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.
Zaha was unsurprisingly the biggest threat to the visitors and stung the palms of David de Gea within two minutes.
Chances were hard to come by in the first half with Harry Maguire United’s biggest threat from a series of corners.
However, the game turned in the minutes before the break as Zaha went down in the penalty area claiming to have been tripped by Victor Lindelof.
But neither referee Graham Scott nor a VAR review awarded a penalty and moments later United led.
Bruno Fernandes fed Rashford inside the area who sold Patrick Van Aanholt a dummy and cut onto his right foot before finding the bottom corner for his 22nd goal of the season.
Palace chairman Steve Parish was less than impressed after seeing his side have Mamadou Sakho’s goal ruled out by VAR against Aston Villa on Sunday.
“Is the VAR broken?” Parish tweeted. “How can they look at Sakho ‘handball’ for minutes to make their ‘mind up’ and not even give that a glance! It’s a stonewall nailed on penalty even the most one eyed Man U fan knows it.”
VAR was fully in operation 10 minutes into the second half when Ayew converted Zaha’s low cross but was denied an equaliser by a millimetric offside decision on review.
At the other end Rashford did not get enough power on his shot to beat Vicente Guaita and Fernandes smashed against the post.
Rashford is to become the youngest person to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester for his work campaigning against child poverty and he rounded off another fine week for the 22-year-old on and off the field with a major role in Martial’s second to clinch a vital three points.
The England international burst through three Palace players before feeding Fernandes. The Portuguese’s pass through the legs of Luka Milivojevic found Rashford again on the edge of the area and he cushioned a pass into Martial to slide home.
Palace’s misfortune was rounded off as Van Aanholt had to stretchered off with a shoulder injury after colliding with Martial.