Romelu Lukaku scored twice to make light work of Manchester United’s injury crisis with a comfortable Premier League victory over Crystal Palace.
The Red Devils were missing eight first-team players at Selhurst Park, but extended their unbeaten league run under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to 11 games.
Belgium striker Lukaku netted in each half, curling a well-placed shot into the corner for his first and scooping over goalkeeper Vicente Guaita for his second.
Looking to respond, Palace winger Jeffrey Schlupp flicked a header wide of the far post, but Joel Ward did manage to convert a diving header from close range with 24 minutes remaining.
United were under pressure late on but Ashley Young drilled in a third for the victory as United stay fifth in the table, a point behind Arsenal who hammered Bournemouth 5-1, while Palace remain 14th.
Mixed showing from United
There were major concerns before the game that boss Solskjaer may have to field a significantly-weakened United side, having seen three players stricken by injury in the first half against Liverpool last Sunday.
But the Norwegian managed to put out a fairly strong eleven, giving a start to £47m summer signing Fred for his first appearance since 5 January in the FA Cup.
The former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder was shaky early on, being outmuscled off the ball too often and playing loose passes, but his 84.5% pass accuracy was bettered only by defender Victor Lindelof.
Solskjaer took the opportunity to debut 17-year-old youth team midfielder James Garner for the final minute, replacing Fred. The interim manager, who has repeatedly spoken about the traditions of Manchester United, will be pleased his side claimed a club record eighth straight league win away from home.
Forward Alexis Sanchez failed to impress in another lacklustre showing, but striker Lukaku took his chance with two well-taken goals, having missed a glorious chance in the opening 10 minutes when he volleyed over from close range.
The former Chelsea, Everton and West Brom man moved into the Premier League’s top 20 all-time leading scorers, his 111 strikes drawing him level with Dion Dublin.
At the back, full-back Luke Shaw followed up his excellent showing against Liverpool with another solid performance, while Young kept Wilfried Zaha quiet and capped his display with a goal.
Palace’s United curse continues
Palace’s unwanted record of having never beaten Manchester United in a Premier League game continued, extending the run to 20 games. The loss also brought to an end a run of six unbeaten games in all competitions.
Former England boss Roy Hodgson has now lost 12 top-flight matches against United – more than he has against any other club.
The Eagles should have gone ahead when Andros Townsend clipped a shot over from close range, while Michy Batshuayi headed over and skipper Luka Milivojevic struck a free-kick wide.
Defender Ward pulled a goal back in the second half and the Englishman was imposing at the back too – his three tackles, three clearances and winning the ball back seven times could not be surpassed by a team-mate.
Palace travel to Burnley on Saturday (kick-off 15:00 GMT), while United host Southampton at the same time.
Lukaku enjoys playing away – the stats
- Manchester United have won eight consecutive away games in all competitions for the first time in their history.
- Crystal Palace have played more Premier League games without ever winning against Man Utd (D4 L16) than any side has against another in the competition’s history.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 22 league games against Crystal Palace, since a 0-3 away defeat in May 1991 (W18 D4).
- Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has lost more Premier League matches against Man Utd (12) than he has against any other side.
- Eight of Romelu Lukaku’s 10 Premier League goals this season have been scored away from home – only Harry Kane (10) has netted more on the road in 2018-19 so far.
- Man Utd’s Romelu Lukaku has scored in seven of his last 10 Premier League appearances against Crystal Palace, including in three of his four games for the Red Devils.
- James McArthur became just the fourth player to reach 150 appearances for Crystal Palace in the Premier League after Joel Ward, Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha.
- Crystal Palace’s Joel Ward ended a run of 86 Premier League appearances without a goal, since netting against Chelsea in August 2015.