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Operation Cantona: mission accomplished

1189748-24874314-640-360Having gone three games without a win, perhaps the FA Cup break benefited United, or perhaps Palace were simply not good enough to cope with the mighty Marouane Fellaini (this, by the way, is a sarcastic remark).

Whatever the reason, United’s first visit at Selhurst Park since 2005 was one to remember, as the result topped off a day of jolly drinking, one during which Eric Cantona masks were as common a sight in the away end as inflatable bananas are among City fans.

Having failed to win in the previous three league games, David Moyes finally opted to bench both Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young in favour of Adnan Januzaj, who started alongside Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata behind Robin Van Persie.

Apart from Palace fans being upset by United supporters wearing masks to commemorate “the day when I kicked the hooligan” the first half passed by, as uneventful as the majority of games United have featured in this season.

Nemanja Vidic saw his header fly over the bar, before Chris Smalling’s deflection almost put Palace ahead with half an hour gone, as United were too busy trying to figure out whether they were a top six team or not.

The answer came 17 minutes into the second half as Marouane Chamakh brought down Patrice Evra in the penalty box, thus allowing Robin Van Persie to ram his 11th league goal of the season home, as United went 1-0 up.

Five minutes later Cameron Jerome threatened to score his first league goal in about a decade by curling one past David De Gea, but the United keeper produced a good save down to his left.

Three minutes later United’s very own £300,000-a-week man netted his club’s second, his thundering right foot volley hitting the top right corner of Julian Speroni’s goal, leaving the Argentine keeper absolutely no chance.

No sooner had United netted a second that Januzaj’s through ball found Van Persie, whose shot rattled the bar and offered everybody a timely reminder as to why the Belgian should be selected ahead of Young and Valencia.

RVP and Januzaj were replaced by Antonio Valencia and Ryan Giggs, but United held on for a first win in three games, one which puts them in sixth place, level on points with Everton, who lost 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.

A 2-0 win at Palace should be a routine result for United, but given the predicament endured this season, yet for once it was pleasing to see that David Moyes got his tactics right and was rewarded with a win and a clean sheet.

Today’s three points take United within eight points of fourth placed Liverpool, who play tomorrow against Swansea at Anfield and who are likely to re-establish their 11-point lead in the race to fourth spot.

Still, at least we’ve won a game.