Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer criticised the decision to award Crystal Palace a penalty in a 3-1 home defeat on Saturday but said the visitors were worth their victory as his side play catch-up after a late start to the season.
With United trailing 1-0 there was a double intervention from VAR – to award Palace a penalty for handball against Victor Lindelof before forcing a retake after goalkeeper David De Gea came off his line – and that ended United’s hopes.
“I feel that it was not a penalty,” Solskjaer said after Wilfried Zaha converted the re-taken spot kick in the 74th minute after Jordan Ayew’s effort was saved and then added a late third to condemn United to defeat in their opener.
“I think the ball comes from so close to Victor – where can he put his hands?
“The decision to retake was probably the right one if you follow the rules. It is harsh, but if you follow the rules then it is right.”
Solskjaer also felt the result was justified, with Andrew Townsend opening the scoring after seven minutes before Zaha’s double and a Donny van de Beek consolation on his debut.
“They deserved the points,” he added. “They were sharper than us. We started off slowly and that had a knock-on effect.
“We can all look ourselves in the mirror. We all need games and sharpness, and time to get back to our best. But we are playing catch-up.”
It felt like a valid excuse that United are lagging behind. Having not finished last season until August 16, they only had time for one pre-season friendly against Aston Villa to prepare for the new campaign before the visit of Palace.
The away side had already played four warm-up matches and two competitive games this term. The extra sharpness showed, with manager Roy Hodgson pleased with what he saw after they scored more than twice for the first time in 40 league matches.
“When you come here you need to show you are going to play on the front foot and not just defend and let them do what they want on the ball,” he said. “We started in the right way and finished in the right way.”