It wasn't a vintage performance by Manchester United, but it was good enough. Scuffling in the league after being held scoreless by both Chelsea and Liverpool, Crystal Palace would have been seen as the ideal tonic for the defending champions. They proved to be a far harder nut to crack than David Moyes would have liked, but a penalty and a red card on the verge of halftime opened them up and eventually the hosts were able to secure a 2-0 victory.
The first half was tense and tight, and indeed could have seen the visitors go ahead after Dwight Gayle managed to lose Rio Ferdinand and beat David de Gea only to put his scooped finish just wide of the far post. Just prior to that attempt, Robin van Persie had rattled the crossbar after being picked out by Wayne Rooney's excellent cross-field ball -- United's best piece of open play in a disappointing half.
The tenor of the match changed in the 44th minute. Ashley Young seized on a defensive error and went charging into the box. The winger was barged off the ball by Kagisho Dikgacoi, leaving referee Jonathan Moss pointing to the spot. And he brandished a red card to boot. Van Persie sent Julian Speroni the wrong way, and the hosts were never going to look back after that.
After the break, things were fairly one-sided. Marouane Fellaini was introduced to the Old Trafford faithful to some fanfare, and the former Everton man nearly managed to open his account for the season with a vicious half-volley that Speroni was able to claw away. But it was a United stalwart who'd seal victory, with Rooney taking advantage of an Adnan Januzaj-won free kick to send a delightful strike curling inside the near post.
A deserved win for United then, but thanks to the circumstances, not a particularly impressive one.
Manchester United: De Gea, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Fabio, Anderson (Fellaini, 62'), Carrick, Young (Januzaj, 67'), Rooney, Valencia, van Persie (Hernandez, 79')
Goals: Van Persie, 45' (pen); Rooney, 81'.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Moxey, Delaney, Gabbidon, Campaña (Guedioura, 59'), Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Gayle (Jerome, 64'), Chamakh (Kebe, 75'), Puncheon