Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s enduring predatory instincts rescued Manchester United, seizing a late opportunity to secure a 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace with his 13th goal of the season.
Ibrahimovic netted the winner in the 88th-minute from a tight angle after Paul Pogba slickly threaded the ball through to the 35-year-old striker.
“I told him England is not the best place for a holiday for a rich guy,” United manager Jose Mourinho said of the Swede, who joined from Paris Saint-Germain in July. “You come to England for the most difficult league and to prove yourself. It was a decision that was based on that. It’s not just about his goals. It’s his leadership, motivation.”
Palace is only three points above the relegation zone after one win in 10 matches, perilous form for manager Alan Pardew who has spoken of his job insecurity in recent weeks. Palace was gifting United space and possession for much of the first half, rarely breaking out of its own half.
In the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half, Palace was punished by their inability to defend a set-piece but the hosts had legitimate grievances on two counts.
Ibrahimovic initially appeared to chest down Juan Mata’s free kick into the path of Pogba. Replays, though, indicated that Ibrahimovic’s hand helped the ball along and Pogba was in an offside position when he turned the ball past Hennessey.
The home fans were furious, jeering referee Craig Pawson at the interval. The players drew on the anger.
The leveler was stylish. Damien Delaney received the ball from Joel Ward, and a back-heeled flick-on enabled McArthur to slot past De Gea in the 66th minute.
Mata did soon have the ball in the net but he was harshly adjudged to be offside after being set up by a downward header from Rojo.Ibrahimovic’s late intervention ensured United left south London relieved rather than furious.