Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal conceded his side were not at their best as they saw off Crystal Palace to move to the brink of securing a return to the UEFA Champions League.
Juan Mata’s penalty and a Marouane Fellaini effort either side of Jason Puncheon’s free-kick helped United to a 2-1 triumph that takes them seven points clear of Liverpool, who will be unable to overhaul their great rivals if defeated by Chelsea on Sunday.
United came into the fixture at Selhurst Park on the back of three consecutive defeats without scoring, although Van Gaal saw little improvement from those games on Saturday.
“Football is crazy because when you see how we have played against Chelsea, Everton and West Bromwich Albion and you compare it with today, this was not our best match.
“But you win and that’s also the beauty of football.
“What I have seen today is the fighting spirit of my team. I said to my players ‘when you fight like you fought today we are difficult to beat’ so I’m very happy with this result.
“It brings us a big step closer to our goal and now we shall sit tomorrow with a fantastic glass of wine to see Chelsea against Liverpool.”
David de Gea’s point-blank save from Glenn Murray at 1-1 was just as crucial to United’s victory – a fact not lost on his manager.
Van Gaal added: “He made a great save at the most important moment because at that time Crystal Palace could score the second goal and then it would be very difficult for us to come again in the match.”
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