London - Jose Mourinho admitted Manchester United rode their luck as
Nemanja Matic's late thunderbolt capped a dramatic 3-2 win at Crystal Palace on
Mourinho's side trailed to Andros Townsend's early opener
and Patrick van Aanholt's second-half effort at Selhurst Park.
But Chris Smalling got one back for United and Romelu Lukaku
equalised with 14 minutes remaining.
That set the stage for Serbia midfielder Matic to score for
the first time since his move from Chelsea last year with a blistering blast
from the edge of the area in stoppage-time.
It was an escape act that seemed unlikely when United fell
2-0 behind after being out-fought and out-played by a Palace team fighting
gamely to avoid relegation.
But Mourinho took heart from the way his players shrugged
off their limp opening to move back above Liverpool into second place in the
Premier League and within 16 points of runaway leaders Manchester City.
"You always need that little bit of luck to win a match
in the last few minutes," Mourinho said.
"We played very good quality football in the second
half but we made so many defensive mistakes.
"That disgraceful, childish second goal changed everything.
But the players kept an amazing attitude.
"I cannot tell you half of the things I told my team at
halftime because there would be lots of bleeping on television.
"To come back from 2-0 away from home against a team
that is desperate for points, it gives us a great feeling."
Third-bottom Palace deserved better, but they remain one
point from safety after a heartbreaking loss.
United paid the price for their lethargic start in the 11th
Christian Benteke was allowed to jink into the United penalty
area unchecked by Smalling and when his pass picked out Townsend 18 yards from
goal, the Palace winger unleashed a shot that took a wicked deflection off
Lindelof as it looped past David De Gea.
With Matic and Paul Pogba rattled by Palace's relentless
pressing, United were unable to match their opponents' intensity.
The out of form Pogba, dropped several times by Mourinho
recently, was a major cause of the visitors' woes as the France midfielder
wasted possession and was caught out of position time and again.
He was playing so badly that United legend Gary Neville,
working for Sky Sports, was moved to say: "It's like everything he does is
like a YouTube or Instagram video.
"It's like it's not serious, it's like a joke to him in
terms of the way he goes about things."
Mourinho kept faith with Pogba, instead sending on Marcus
Rashford for Scott McTominay at half-time.
But just three minutes after the interval, United were
caught cold again.
When Palace won a free-kick, Jeffrey Schlupp alertly took it
quickly, sending van Aanholt scampering clear on goal.
United appealed in vain for offside but the flag stayed down
and van Aanholt held his nerve to slot past De Gea for his first goal since May
Mourinho was raging on the touchline, but Smalling gave
United a lifeline in the 55th minute.
The England defender had missed a good chance moments
earlier, but he made amends with a clinical header from Antonio Valencia's
That completely changed the momentum and even Pogba sparked
into life as his curler was pushed away by Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey.
Matic almost equalised with a thunderous strike that Benteke
cleared off the line and United's pressure was rewarded in the 76th minute.
Alexis Sanchez's shot deflected off James Tomkins and ran to
Lukaku, who worked himself into position to fire low past Hennessey.
United were relieved, but it took a brilliant one-handed
save from De Gea, diving to his right to keep out Benteke's header, to ensure
their comeback wasn't in vain.
The drama wasn't over and in stoppage-time Matic stole the
points for United, seizing the loose ball on the edge of the Palace area and
cracking his strike into top corner to spark wild celebrations from the