Match ends, Manchester United 1, Crystal Palace 0.
- Mata comes off the bench to score
- United's first victory in four games
- Palace without a win since September
Manchester United moved up to sixth in the Premier League as Juan Mata's second-half goal secured victory over stubborn Crystal Palace.
There was little between the two in the first half, with Fraizer Campbell lobbing over for Palace and Luke Shaw denied for the hosts.
United boss Louis van Gaal brought on Mata after the hour and he made a swift impact, driving in from 20 yards.
Mata hit the post later but his earlier goal proved enough to take victory.
It was far from a memorable spectacle but three points and a clean sheet will prove satisfying for Van Gaal, especially given his side's defensive problems.
An unsettled back line had played its part in United enduring their worst start to a Premier League season, having collected just 13 points from their first 10 games.
Chris Smalling's sending off against Manchester City last weekend, coupled with an injury to Marcos Rojo, meant Van Gaal - not for the first time this season - had to name a makeshift defence, with Daley Blind partnering 19-year-old Paddy McNair at the back.
Their unfamiliarity alongside each other almost proved costly in the first half, as a long ball from the Palace defence bounced between the pair for Campbell, who tried to lift his shot over David de Gea, but the effort ended up on the roof of the net.
That, though, was the highlight of an otherwise forgettable first half, with United dominant in possession but struggling to make it count.
Luke Shaw had the hosts' best opportunity before the break, breaking from halfway but his low drive was tipped behind by Julian Speroni.
Palace had lost three of their previous four games but, to their credit, they were doing well to nullify United's attack.
As a result, set-pieces looked to be the home side's best chance, and only a clearance on the line from James McArthur prevented Marouane Fellaini from powering in a header from Wayne Rooney's corner.
With a draw looking increasingly likely, Van Gaal brought on Mata for Adnan Januzaj and, four minutes after his introduction, the Spaniard picked up the ball and steered in a left-footed finish.
Palace never looked like scoring an equaliser, and instead Mata could have added further gloss to the scoreline but his late shot smacked against the post.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal:
"It was a fantastic goal but it was important also. It is always difficult to attack against a defending team, who come here to defend and not attack. You have two rows of four and we created a lot of possibilities.
"Juan Mata has played a lot of matches. I have given him the chance, I give other players the chance and at the end we shall see who plays more than the other. It is always like that in football.
"Paddy McNair is not injured. It was cramp. It is [recent injury problems] crazy but it is what I have to deal with."
Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock:
"We are having that kind of spell at the minute, nothing is going right for us. If Fraizer Campbell had scored that chance he had it would have put a lot of pressure on them, but it was not to be. I thought the referee did well today.
"It is hard at times for a lot of clubs at this level but you just have to keep going. I can't criticise the lads today. The passing was poor at times, though, we made some bad decisions with the ball.
"You have to work hard to make your own luck. Liverpool next, after last year that should be a cracking match and I am looking forward to it."
- 1de Gea
- 25A ValenciaBooked at 83mins
- 33McNairSubstituted forFletcherat 90+1'minutes
- 11JanuzajSubstituted forMataat 63'minutes
- 7Di MaríaSubstituted forWilsonat 71'minutes
- 20van Persie
- 27DelaneyBooked at 38mins
- 2WardBooked at 35mins
- 7BolasieBooked at 64minsSubstituted forGayleat 81'minutes
- 29ChamakhSubstituted forBannanat 81'minutes
- 10CampbellSubstituted forDoyleat 90+1'minutes
- Chris Foy
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Manchester United 1, Crystal Palace 0.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by James McArthur (Crystal Palace).
Substitution, Manchester United. Darren Fletcher replaces Patrick McNair.
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Kevin Doyle replaces Fraizer Campbell.
Attempt blocked. Daley Blind (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt missed. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Robin van Persie.
Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Antonio Valencia (Manchester United).
Dwight Gayle (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Robin van Persie (Manchester United) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right.
Juan Mata (Manchester United) hits the left post with a left footed shot from outside the box.
Attempt blocked. Robin van Persie (Manchester United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Wayne Rooney.
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Barry Bannan replaces Marouane Chamakh.
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Dwight Gayle replaces Yannick Bolasie.
Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Marouane Fellaini.
Attempt blocked. Scott Dann (Crystal Palace) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jason Puncheon with a cross.
Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Michael Carrick.
Attempt blocked. Fraizer Campbell (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Joe Ledley.