It said everything about the eccentric denouement to this competition that Nemanja Matic, this unlikely matchwinner, was still sporting a look of disbelief and shock as he pinched himself during his post-match interviews. With the game deep into exhaustion grasping and stoppage time, it was time for one swing. Matic's link was authentic, the ball arcing viciously to swerve away from Wayne Hennessey and the goalkeeper's footwork was hesitant as if he was taken by surprise. From the time the ball billowed his web, despairing team-mates were sinking into their haunches as Matic wheeled away in celebration. United, a group who had trailed by 2 just before the hour mark here and wouldn't be spared scathing criticism by José Mourinho, will enter Saturday's match with Liverpool over their rivals and restored into the top two.

This finally appeared reward for United's persistence but it owed much to the director's effect from the sidelines. There'd been a rebuke at half-time because of his players' sloppiness in creating "so many errors", albeit that ear-bashing didn't stop the people shipping a "disgraceful, childish second target" immediately following the break. As it transpired, necessity forced Mourinho to be daring in his substitutions and, with Marcus Rashford pinning back the impressive Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Juan Mata prompting centrally and Jesse Lingard filling in at right-back, they finally forced their way back into the competition. Christian Benteke had scrambled one Matic effort in the goalline, but Palace could crack 14 minutes from time. agen sbobet terpercaya

Sánchez's shot looped up off Martin Kelly to bounce in the angle of bar and post, with Lukaku calmly gathering the rebound, patiently eking out space in a cluttered playground, and forcing a finish through the jumble of bodies and outside the unsighted Hennessey. A stage would still have been cherished by Hodgson, a manager trying to stave off relegation having an entire group of senior players now crocked with ligament damage, broken bones or various strains, but Matic would mess that prospect. "I am quite pleased with the performance and can not criticise any participant for the effort they put in, their subject tactically," he supplied through the numbness of defeat. "I just feel really sad for them all."

Perhaps the cold light of day will highlight the advantages, for all that a trip today expects on Saturday to Chelsea, the injured defending champions. Palace was aggressive and direct, encouraged by Benteke's personal resurrection - the Belgian would draw a fine save from David de Gea immediately after United's equaliser as he sought a primary target here since May - and Alexander Sørloth's muscle running, Andros Townsend's delivery and Wan-Bissaka's excitement and quality even up against Sánchez. Jeffrey Schlupp's quick considering a free-kick, slipping Patrick van Aanholt into enemy territory while Matic complained about the referee's decision, earned them a second. Van Aanholt's end was crisply discharged in the goalkeeper's near post.

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The majority within the arena could barely contemplate such a healthy lead, however, in fact, it really served to ignite United into life. The way they flooded forward afterward, encouraged by Smalling's reward and took their wages boded well for their strength of character when the sloppiness was playing the manager's head in the wake. An amazing comeback, but errors ..." muttered Mourinho. "However, the attitude, the intensity, the quality, the energetic, the risk were amazing. We needed that little bit of chance to triumph in the last minute but I would say we deserved since the dominance in that previous half-hour was enormous." At least all of his criticisms could be issued in success.

For Palace, Matic's winner was the type of sucker punch where they may struggle to recuperate. Harry Kane had scored from closer in, but just marginally earlier, in their previous home game, and they loiter under the cut-off. Their fate will boil down to how well they clean their therapy room and negotiate passing through a more attractive final six matches. Yet shrugging this off disappointment won't be easy.