By Andy Hyslop
- Darmian notches first goal for United
- Italian full-back also provided cross for opening goal
- Win closes the gap on fourth placed Arsenal to one point
Manchester United closed the gap on fourth placed Arsenal to one point with 2-0 win over Crystal Palace with Darmian notching his first goal for United.
The win sees United close the gap on both City and Arsenal in pursuit of a top four finish. United now stand one point behind Arsenal and two behind City. Arsenal play West Brom tonight and will be looking to restore a four point advantage over United.
Manager Louis Van Gaal has stated that United will need to win all their remaining league games if they are to have any chance of finishing inside the top four.
Both teams had one eye on their FA Cup semi-finals this weekend, with United facing Everton on Saturday and Palace coming up against Watford.
Van Gaal made three changes to the team that started the 1-0 win over Aston Villa. With Martial, Lingard and Darmian all being restored to the starting line-up.
United operated with a 4-3-3 formation. Deploying captain Rooney in midfield alongside Schneiderlin and Mata. Operating behind a front three of Martial, Rashford and Lingard.
The deadlock was broken after just four minutes when Darmian, operating at left-back crossed after a back-heeled pass from Rashford. The cross was diverted into his own net by Palace defender Damian Delaney.
Palace had to thank goalkeeper Julian Speroni as they only in at half-time 1-0 down. Speroni produced good saves to deny Martial, Rashford, Lingard and Rooney.
The pattern of the first-half continued as the second-half began. With United dominating possession and Palace appearing happy to sit back and defend. Rooney missed an early chance to add to the lead.
Ten minutes had been played in the second-half when Darmian added to his first-half assist with his first goal for Manchester United.
The goal came as Darmian latched on to Delaney’s headed clearance, controlling the ball on his chest before unleashing a left foot volley that hit the back of the net in front of the Stretford End via the post.
Speroni again denied both Lingard and Rashford in quick succession before Van Gaal used his substitutes to rest three players that look like being certain starters at Wembley.
The first of those changes saw Rashford being replaced by Memphis before Herrera entered the pitch in place of Lingard. With twelve minutes left on the clock, Rooney was replaced by Fellaini.
The final minutes of the game was played out in professional fashion by United and perfect preparation for the semi-final on Saturday.
Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Schneiderlin, Mata, Rooney (Fellaini 78), Lingard (Herrera 73), Rashford (Memphis 64), Martial Substitutes Not Used: Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Rojo, Young