London (AFP) – Manchester United’s Premier League season got off to a dreadful start as Wilfried Zaha scored twice against his former club to hand Crystal Palace a 3-1 win at Old Trafford.
The Eagles have now won their first two games of a Premier League season for the first time and on their last two visits to United.
After Andros Townsend opened the scoring early on, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men felt aggrieved with the nature of Palace’s second from the penalty spot as Victor Lindelof was harshly punished for handball and David De Gea’s save from Jordan Ayew’s spot-kick was ruled out by VAR before Zaha converted the retaken penalty.
But they could have no complaints about the result as they looked way off the pace in their first match of the new campaign, little over a month since they ended the last one with defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League semi-finals.
United finished last season on a 14-match unbeaten run in the Premier League to secure a third-place finish and raise hopes of mounting a title challenge to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City this season.
But on this evidence they need far more than the solitary signing of Donny Van de Beek, who scored on his debut, to compete at the top of the table.
Solskjaer kept faith with De Gea in goal ahead of Dean Henderson, who has returned to Old Trafford from an impressive loan spell at Sheffield United.
The Spanish international was beaten after just seven minutes but was blameless as the United defence was carved open by Jeffrey Schlupp’s run and cross from the left and Townsend ghosted in ahead of Luke Shaw to convert at the far post.
Solskjaer had left Mason Greenwood on the bench after complaining he was thrust into the spotlight too soon by England after the 18-year-old was sent home in disgrace from international duty for breaking coronavirus protocols.
But without the teenager, United looked toothless in attack, while Palace always posed a threat on the counter-attack.
De Gea justified his inclusion even before the penalty save with a brilliant stop from Ayew in first-half stoppage time to keep the Red Devils in the game.
Greenwood was called for at half-time and he headed wide United’s best chance to equalise from Timothy Fonsu-Mensah’s cross.
Zaha failed to make the grade in two seasons at United, but with Alex Ferguson, the man who signed him in 2013, in attendance, he showed why remains in such high demand.
The Ivorian’s first goal of the afternoon was ruled out by the offside flag from another promising Palace counter-attack.
But from Palace’s next break they got their reward as Ayew’s shot struck Lindelof on the arm and, after reviewing the pitch side monitor, referee Martin Atkinson pointed to the penalty spot.
De Gea saved Ayew’s first penalty, but after another interruption from VAR, the spot-kick was retaken for De Gea being millimetres off his line when the ball was struck.
Zaha took over the responsibility and this time crashed the ball home to score against his former club.
Van de Beek came off the bench to replace the ineffective Paul Pogba and showed his goalscoring instinct from midfield by latching onto a loose ball inside the area to halve United’s arrears 10 minutes from time.
But just five minutes later the game was killed as a contest when Zaha shrugged off Lindelof with ease before blasting low and hard past De Gea.
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