Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United back in fight for place at top table as Ibrahimovic strikes late winner

Crystal Palace 1 Man Utd 2

By Mark Bryans

Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck a late winner as Manchester United secured victory at Crystal Palace after once again threatening to drop points from a winning position.

United had surrendered a lead in three of their previous four Premier League games and it looked set to go that way once again as James McArthur cancelled out Paul Pogba's controversial opener. But Ibrahimovic was on hand to finish brilliantly from Pogba's through-ball with just two minutes remaining to seal a hard-fought 2-1 win for the visitors.

More: Manchester United are on way back, claims confident Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho brought his United side here a year to the day since his last game in charge of his second spell at Chelsea and the Portuguese seems to have now found his feet at Old Trafford.

United have not lost in the league since Mourinho's ill-fated return to face Chelsea and, coupling this win with Sunday's victory over Tottenham, they have finally found a way to win games.

Palace managed to negate United's attacking threat in the early stages at the expense of creating anything of their own to worry David de Gea in the visitors' goal.

Referee Craig Pawson was not endearing himself to the home fans after a string of decisions they felt went against their side culminated in Marcos Rojo only being booked for a two-footed challenge on former Red Devil Wilfried Zaha. Palace boss Alan Pardew was upset that Rojo was not sent off for the two-footed lunge in the 38th minute.

The Eagles manager said: "Rojo's tackle is dangerous, it's another two-footed tackle, I think he did one before (against Everton). He was a bit fortunate to get away with that.

"We can't really lean on that though because the players have given everything. We were a little bit short of bodies and we've got a big game on Saturday (at Chelsea) so we've got to take what we can out of this game in terms of our confidence levels.

"It's just so galling for us to get that blow at the end because it was real quality what Pogba did (in assisting the winner), the weight of the pass and the finish.

"It was a shame because a point would have been important for us.

"The shape of the team and the effort they put in deserved reward really.

"We worked hard on making sure it was very, very difficult for United to play through us, which we did well. We could've done better on the break but I can't fault them, they've given me everything and we need a little break here and there and we'll be okay."

Wayne Hennessey made a smart stop to deny Wayne Rooney as the game headed towards half-time, palming away the United skipper's close-range effort, and he was on hand again soon after to keep out Pogba's fiercely-struck volley.

But Mourinho's men would go in at half-time ahead courtesy of a controversial Pogba goal.

The France midfielder appeared to be offside as he poked home Ibrahimovic's knock-down, with the striker seemingly handling Juan Mata's free-kick into the path of his team-mate.

Joe Ledley came on at the break for the hosts and came close to levelling soon after as he flashed an effort inches wide of De Gea's left-hand post.

McArthur finished low from Damien Delaney's delightful flick to make it 1-1 after 66 minutes.

Mata had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside and Pogba was booked for his continued remonstrations.

Sub Jesse Lingard, who hit the winner when these two met in the FA Cup final on May 21, drew another stop out of Hennessey.

Ibrahimovic's sixth goal in as many games arrived when he finished with the outside of his boot from Pogba's slide-rule pass.

United saw the game out to remain six points outside the top four, with a delighted Mourinho celebrating on the pitch with his players.

Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Kelly, McArthur (Campbell 87), Flamini (Ledley 45), Cabaye, Lee, Benteke, Zaha. Goal: McArthur 66 Subs not used: Speroni, Townsend, Ledley, Fryers, Husin, Wan-Bissaka.

Manchester United: De Gea, Bailly (Darmian 52), Jones, Rojo, Blind, Carrick, Herrera, Mata (Lingard 71), Pogba, Rooney (Rashford 80), Ibrahimovic. Goals: Pogba 45 Ibrahimovic 88. Subs not used: Young, Romero, Fellaini, Schweinsteiger

Man of the match: Paul Pogba

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Craig Pawson

Attendance: 25,547

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