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Alexis Sanchez quiet again as Man United edge past Palace

Nemanja Matic scores a stunning volley in stoppage time to cap Manchester United's comeback against Crystal Palace.
Jose Mourinho was pleased with his Manchester United's reaction after half-time, but rued their defensive instability throughout the match.

Manchester United players were given a four-day holiday following the 2-1 win over Chelsea last weekend. They spent the first 50 minutes of their 3-2 win over Crystal Palace on Monday looking like they were still out of the country.

Andros Townsend put his team ahead thanks to a deflection before Patrick van Aanholt took advantage of United's defence going to sleep minutes after the restart. At 2-0 down, United had it all to do, but thanks to a turnaround in their performance and some good substitutions from Jose Mourinho, they managed to score three goals in the final 35 minutes: Chris Smalling, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic all got on the scoresheet.

United move back to second in the Premier League table ahead of the weekend's game against Liverpool. It was an important victory for Mourinho, and one that should seal their place in the top four. Now they need to focus on finishing as close to first place as possible.

Positives

For United not to let their heads go down when losing 2-0, the Palace fans on good form, was impressive.

Lukaku's great goalscoring record of 2018 continues, with him putting away his eighth goal in 11 games this calendar year. He's been derided in the past for scoring meaningless goals, when the game is already won, but he's been scoring some important goals for the team of late.

Matic couldn't have picked a better time to score his first goal for the club. The finish wasn't bad either for an injury-time winner.

Negatives

To go 2-0 down against a team that has been poor for so long was disappointing. The defensive errors, not just from the back line, made United look amateur for the first part of the game.

Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba, arguably United's two most gifted outfield players, are struggling the make the impact they should.

Manager rating out of 10

7 -- It's hard to work out how Smalling is getting in the team ahead of Eric Bailly or Ashley Young instead of Luke Shaw. United fans will be pleased with his attacking substitutions in the second half but will question the error of judgement in the starting lineup. Still, he made attacking moves and brought on the right players to raise the level of United's performance and get the win.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK David De Gea, 7 -- There was nothing he could have done about the deflected goal, but it was puzzling as to why he didn't even move for the second. Made a fantastic save to deny Christian Benteke moments after United equalised though, which enabled United to go on and win.

DF Antonio Valencia, 6 -- Wasn't quick enough to react for Palace's second, but then played the perfect ball in to Smalling for his goal. Taken off when Mourinho adopted a more attacking approach.

DF Victor Lindelof, 5 -- Shaky beginnings and was unfortunate to see Palace's goal deflected off him. Put in some good clearances but this was a long way from an assured performance.

DF Chris Smalling, 6 -- Didn't do enough to get the ball off Benteke in the lead-up to Palace's goal. Fast asleep when Palace went 2-0 up but then redeemed himself somewhat when pulling a goal back the start the comeback.

DF Ashley Young, 4 -- Allowed Townsend to drift in for the goal and had a difficult evening against him, again. Delivered a couple of decent crosses but his inclusion in the team is wearing thing with the fans. Taken off in the second half.

MF Scott McTominay, 5 -- There was nothing too forward-thinking about his play but he worked hard to win possession back for United. Booked for a badly timed challenge.

MF Nemanja Matic, 7 -- Gave away possession, which led to a shot on target early on, but was much better in the second half. He was unlucky to have his shot cleared off the line, with only half the ball crossing the goal line, before scoring a wonder goal to win the game.

MF Paul Pogba, 5 -- Conceded possession and didn't track Townsend for Palace's first goal. Repeatedly gave away the ball. He looked better in the second half, but United fans demand more.

FW Jesse Lingard, 6 -- Created United's first chance of the game for Sanchez and put in a real shift, particularly when asked to play as a right-back in the latter stages.

FW Alexis Sanchez, 5 -- Quiet game from the Chilean. He showed the right intention to attack and got himself out of situations where you thought he'd lose possession, only for his final ball not to be good enough.

Alexis Sanchez had a night to forget as Selhurst Park.

FW Romelu Lukaku, 6 -- After a quiet game, he showed great patience to wait until he had a clear route to goal to take his shot to equalise.

Substitutes

FW Marcus Rashford, 6 -- Went on a great run straight after coming on and continued to get behind the Palace defence throughout the game.

FW Juan Mata, 6 -- Came on for Valencia and supported United's attack well.

DF Luke Shaw, 5 -- Replaced Young but had less defensive work to do as United attacked much more in the second half.

Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.

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