Fred was the unlikely hero as Manchester United ignited the Ralf Rangnick era with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.
With Rangnick on the touchline for the first time as interim manager, United had to be patient to see off a Palace side who could have frustrated them. In the end, it was the conclusion the hosts were hoping for, though.
Rangnick went into the game without changing any players from the lineup that had faced Arsenal in midweek, when he watched from the stands.
United had the first chance when Alex Telles shot off target after a corner routine. They were setting their tempo early on and had Palace under pressure in the first 10 minutes, without testing Vicente Guaita.
Cristiano Ronaldo was keen to get involved too, firing a free kick over. He kept busy, also seeing a shot blocked and a header miss the target.
Next to have a chance for United was Fred, but James Tomkins got in the way to deny him.
Guaita was called into action to prevent Bruno Fernandes from scoring as United kept testing Palace’s resolve. There was also an attempt by Jadon Sancho, deflected over the bar.
Palace stemmed the tide somewhat until the break and managed to venture forward a bit more. Ultimately, it remained goalless by the time the referee blew the half-time whistle.
Man Utd made to wait till second half for Fred winner
United began the second half with similar intent, but Fernandes’ first effort since the restart was off target.
Their tempo dipped somewhat after, though. From the other side, Palace began to sense their own opportunity to get a result.
Needing to regain their earlier confidence, United won a free kick and Telles took aim. It was their closest chance of the half to that point as he skimmed the crossbar with his effort.
Another chance fell to the feet of Mason Greenwood, who had replaced Sancho in Rangnick’s first change. However, the forward went wide with his attempt.
At the other end, there was a big chance for Palace to make United pay. The ball came to Jordan Ayew yards out from goal, but he pulled a shot wide. It was a moment Palace would come to regret.
One minute later, United could breathe a sigh of relief when Fred put them ahead.
The Brazilian midfielder latched on to a ball from Greenwood and from the edge of the box curled it into the top corner with his right foot.
He deserved it for his all-round performance and the goal proved to be the match winner, despite some late pressure from Palace.
Man Utd have thus earned back-to-back wins for the first time in almost three months, and their first home clean sheet of the season.
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