Ralf Rangnick said his Manchester United side performed “better than expected” as he began his reign as interim manager with a narrow victory over Crystal Palace.
A more energetic United display looked like going unrewarded against a dogged Crystal Palace outfit until midfielder Fred struck first-time from Mason Greenwood’s lay-off to send a superb 20-yard effort curling over Vicente Guaita and into the top corner for the winner.
It was only Fred’s second goal of the season – and it was the first time since the middle of September that United have recorded back-to-back league wins.
Until the Brazilian’s effort, Rangnick’s side created numerous decent chances, without really looking as though they were going to score and Guaita would probably have saved an Alex Telles free-kick that skimmed the bar had it been on target.
“I am very happy with the way the team performed, especially the first half hour, with the pressing, it was exceptional,” Rangnick told BBC Match of the Day. “The only thing missing was the 1-0 or 2-0.
“The way we defended, we had control of the whole game.
“The clean sheet was the most important part. These are the things we must improve. We need to keep clean sheets. With just the one training session, I was really impressed. We did much better than expected.
“We always tried to be on the front foot. We were never not apart from maybe the last five minutes. At all other times we were trying to keep them away from our goal.”
Palace, who were looking to win for a third successive season at Old Trafford, came close to taking the lead themselves when Jordan Ayew turned James Tomkins header across the face of goal and narrowly wide of the far post.
The victory meant that Rangnick emulated three of United’s other four new managers since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 by winning his first match at the helm, with Louis van Gaal the only man to fail.