LONDON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Juan Mata's sweet strike earned Manchester United a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday but manager Louis van Gaal was left with plenty to ponder after another unconvincing display.
Gaal's fourth Premier League win lifted his team to sixth in the table
but they struggled to break down a stubborn Palace defence despite
dominating possession at Old Trafford.
and suspensions forced Van Gaal to field a makeshift central defence of
Paddy McNair and Daley Blind and they enjoyed a relatively quiet
afternoon against a toothless Palace attack.
"It was a fantastic goal but it was important also," Van Gaal told the BBC.
is always difficult to attack against a defending team, who comes here
to defend and not attack. You have two rows of four and we created a lot
"I am pleased because we have three points and there is an international break so it was important we closed with a victory."
came on as a second-half substitute for Adnan Januzaj and made an
immediate impact before hitting the post late in the game.
"Juan Mata has played a lot of matches," Van Gaal said.
have given him the chance, I give other players the chance and at the
end we shall see who plays more than the other. It is always like that
without five first-choice defenders with Chris Smalling suspended and
Phil Jones, Rafael, Jonny Evans and Marcos Rojo injured.
Dutchman Blind proved a competent partner for the 19-year-old McNair
and Michael Carrick started in midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini
following his recovery from injury.
"McNair and Blind didn't have to defend too much because we always had the ball," Van Gaal said.
only had to defend the long balls but that is difficult because
(Marouane) Chamakh and (Fraizer) Campbell are strong headers of the
It was another
subdued performance from striker Robin van Persie, captain Wayne Rooney
struggled to make an impact and record signing Angel di Maria was
withdrawn in favour of young forward James Wilson 20 minutes from time.
Gaal will hope to get some defenders back for the trip to Arsenal on
Nov. 22 but, after saying it might take three years to restore United to
former glories, he has plenty to think about during the two-week
international break. (Reporting by Ed Osmond, editing by Mark Meadows)
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