Ralf Rangnick’s tenure at Manchester United began with a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Sunday, thanks to a magnificent strike from the much-maligned Fred.
The Red Devils’ promising start faded without reward, and the German appeared to be heading for a disappointing draw in his first encounter as head coach until the end of the season.
But Fred, who had come in for a lot of flak towards the conclusion of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure as manager, delivered a moment of magic 13 minutes from time with a curling attempt on his weaker right foot to snare an important victory.
United has climbed to sixth place in the Premier League rankings, three points behind the top four.
Rangnick made no quick changes to his starting lineup, keeping the same lineup from Thursday’s 3-2 triumph over Arsenal.
In the first five minutes, United forced Palace into giving up possession deep within their own half twice, signaling a change in strategy.
However, the precision needed to match United’s ferocity was lacking.
With a double in midweek, Cristiano Ronaldo increased his goal tally for club and country to 801, but his quest for a free-kick goal continues as his effort from the edge of the box did not dip in time.
After opting not to strike Bruno Fernandes’ dinked ball first time, Ronaldo had a shot stopped by Marc Guehi.
Fred had United’s greatest chance of the first 45 minutes, but James Tomkins bravely diverted his goalbound shot behind.
From Ronaldo’s knockdown, Fernandes finally put Vicente Guaita to the test, before Diogo Dalot wasted the last kick of the first half by firing over on his weaker left foot.
However, United’s early desire to impress their new manager faded as the second half performance recalled Solskjaer’s final days in charge.
Jordan Ayew somehow diverted Tomkins’ header back across goal and beyond the reach of Guehi at the back post 15 minutes from time, and Palace should have taken the lead.
Rangnick has a reputation for believing in young players, which he demonstrated when he exchanged Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford for Mason Greenwood and Anthony Elanga in the search for a winner.
Greenwood’s contribution was crucial, as Fred looped the ball over Guaita from his layoff.
After a promising start to Patrick Vieira’s tenure at Palace, the Eagles have now gone four games without a win, and the Frenchman’s caution helped United keep their first clean sheet in 16 games at Old Trafford.
With six minutes remaining, Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze were introduced off the bench, but they had little time to make an impact as a jittery United held on.