ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Manchester United 4
Crystal Palace 0
LONDON • The only good news for Roy Hodgson was that his second visit to Manchester in a week did not result in another 5-0 scoreline.
It could have, but Manchester United were not exactly going flat out at Old Trafford yesterday.
There was simply no need. That is the bad news for stricken Crystal Palace. There was so much of it that it is hard to know where to start.
Probably the third minute, by which time United had taken the lead and the visiting manager was already staring glassy-eyed into space in the manner perfected with England last summer.
A sublime turn by United forward Marcus Rashford on the left wing sent Palace full-back Joel Ward in the wrong direction.
It left Rashford free to cut in along the goal-line and the England forward had the time and composure to look up and find Juan Mata waiting near the penalty spot to score - a goal to mark the Spaniard's 200th Premier League appearance.
The game went a bit flat after such a sparkling start, with Palace doing their damage limitation work well and keeping two disciplined defensive lines behind the ball.
RESULTS AND FIXTURES
Huddersfield 0 Tottenham 4
Man United 4 Crystal Palace 0
Bournemouth 0 Leicester 0
Stoke 2 Southampton 1
West Ham 1 Swansea 0
West Brom 2 Watford 2
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It took United half an hour to find a way through, though when they did the danger again came from the left. This time it was Ashley Young in an advanced position, easily avoiding Andros Townsend's token resistance to send over a cross to the far post, where Marouane Fellaini was able to sweep in a close-range volley.
Palace made it to the interval without further mishap, yet in the 10 first-half minutes that remained after Fellaini's goal, United could easily have doubled their lead.
Rashford struck a post just before the break. But the passage of play that best summed up the task ahead for Hodgson came a couple of minutes earlier, when Townsend needlessly conceded a corner because he could not find a team-mate to help him out, and Chris Smalling missed the target at the far post with a free header from Mata's cross.
All Palace had managed by way of attack in the first period was a shot from stand-in striker Bakary Sako that David de Gea beat away.
Hodgson's second half began as badly as his first, with whatever he had said to his players in the dressing room rendered irrelevant by the free kick Rashford arrowed into the area, for Fellaini to score his second with a header on the six-yard line.
Any semblance of a contest over, the only question that remained as the game went into its final half-hour was whether Romelu Lukaku could break Louis Saha's record by scoring in each of his first seven league games.
The Belgian had the last laugh, when Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial presented him with an unmissable chance four minutes from time.