BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Roy Hodgson conceded that Manchester United were worthy winners as Crystal Palace went down 3-1 at Selhurst Park tonight.
A rare Joel Ward goal had cut the deficit after Romelu Lukaku’s double.
But Ashley Young rammed home towards the end of the meeting in SE25 to seal maximum points for the Champions League -chasing visitors.
Hodgson said: “We can only hold our hands up and say they deserved the victory. But we gave our best shot especially in the second half.
“In the first half we worked hard to keep our shape and keep them at bay, but they had a lot of control. I don’t think there were a lot of chances in that first half but they certainly took theirs well.
“The second goal was a real cold shower because in the first five or 10 minutes [of the second half] it looked like we could do something here. It’s of great credit to my players that despite that second goal they stayed on the front foot and got back into the game.
“With 20 minutes left we made some changes to try and get something from the game but, as so often what happens when you’re playing teams of this quality, they find a way to finish you off with the third goal.”
United were a threat from set-pieces and Lukaku – who smashed over when unmarked from a corner in the first real big opportunity of the match – hooked home his second after United won two aerial duels before that.
“They have got three players who are six foot four in their team,” said Hodgson. “It’s not that easy to stop Chris Smalling winning the first header and Lindelof winning the second ball. [Paul] Pogba is taking away one of our best markers as well – then you’ve got the six foot three Lukaku who gets in on the act.
“They are always going to be very dangerous from set-plays – they have got very good deliveries and some very tall players.
“They did very well in areas that aren’t always obvious to the naked eye, their organisation and work-rate was very good. As a result the things we like to pride ourselves in get negated to a certain extent.
“Good players find a way to punish you – as Lukaku did tonight.”