An early Damien Delaney own goal set the tone at Old Trafford, before Matteo Darmian’s first goal in United colours made sure of the outcome ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final showdown against Everton.
The win took United to within a point of fourth-placed Arsenal – who play their game in hand against West Brom on Thursday night – and two points behind Manchester City in third.
Van Gaal, who revealed that both Rashford and Chris Smalling suffered knocks that will need to be assessed in the coming days, is now eager for his players to continue their winning run in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton. With the season reaching boiling point, it would be criminal and illogical to play your most potent asset out of position.
A team certainly rich in history, United want to be back in the premier European competition and they have four points to make up and five games left to play. We created a lot of chances and we did not give any chances away – one, maybe, in the first half for Adebayor.
The comfortable victory, coupled with Everton’s 4-0 defeat in the Merseyside derby at Liverpool on the same evening, suggests United will be strong favourites for the semi-final, although Van Gaal insisted that all he cared about was collecting the victory against Palace.
“We had to win, and that we have done – and now it is another game”.
“For me, now, the most important thing is to beat Crystal Palace”.
“We are further than a year ago”, he told a news conference ahead of the club’s first FA Cup semifinal since 2011 against Everton at Wembley on Saturday.
“I could see a bit of blurred focus from my players, and that’s understandable – some of these guys may never get the chance to get to a final”.
Palace boss Alan Pardew admitted they had been distracted by their Wembley date with Watford.
“You always need guts to put youngsters in the squad and also in the lineup, but of course the academy and all the academy coaches have credit for these players and also the scouts who discovered these boys”.
Manchester United have kick-started their faltering season, with Chris Smalling now plotting a fourth straight win and a shot at FA Cup glory.