By Toby Davis
LONDON (Reuters) - Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney scored to lift Manchester United to a patchy 2-0 home win over 10-man Crystal Palace on Saturday with a workmanlike display that will have done little to worry their Premier League title rivals.
Having failed to find the net in the their last two games, relief echoed around Old Trafford when Van Persie converted a controversial penalty on the stroke of halftime for his third goal of the season.
Referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot and sent off Palace defender Kagisho Dikgacoi for bringing down Ashley Young at Old Trafford, but replays showed the initial contact had been well outside the area.
United, who had seen two earlier penalty appeals waved away, struggled to build any momentum despite dominating possession and took until the 81st minute to double their advantage.
Rooney, wearing a thickly wadded headband after sitting out their last Premier League game and two internationals with a cut head, curled in a free kick from 25 metres to make the game safe.
New signing Marouane Fellaini started on the bench but joined the fray in the second half and his combative presence helped to contain Palace's limited ambitions on the break.
Yet there was little urgency from United to kill off the match and while Palace were there for the taking the champions seemed content to push and prod, but rarely committed numbers to the attack.
The result helped United paper over a poor start to the season and moved them up to seven points from their opening four matches. Promoted Palace have three.
Having recently been fined and given a touchline ban for criticising the referee in their opening match against Tottenham Hotspur, Palace manager Ian Holloway was reluctant to comment.
"My opinion doesn't count because the result is the result and I have just got to deal with it," he told BT Sport.
"I literally can't afford it so I can't say a word (about the penalty and sending off) and let everyone else judge it. He (the referee) has a difficult job to do though especially at Old Trafford which such a noisy partisan crowd."
The three penalty shouts dominated the story of the first half.
Evra was the first to be disappointed as he went down under a challenge from Mile Jedinak in the area after only eight minutes with the referee deciding there was minimal contact, before Young was booked for diving 10 minutes later.
The England wideman, who has gained a reputation for theatrical falls, tumbled under the challenge of Dikgacoi, with replays suggesting he had sought out contact with the Palace defender's planted leg.
United's performance in the early stages was lacking punch, but with Palace encamped in their own half and content just to pull up the drawbridge and hope for the best there was little potential for a shock.
The visitors' only real chance came courtesy of a mistake from Rio Ferdinand. He let a long ball drift over his shoulder and Dwight Gayle stole in behind him before chipping his finish wide.
United broke the deadlock two minutes before the break, getting the benefit of the referee's doubt as Young drove forward and was brought down by Dikgacoi.
Moss took his time deciding whether the offence had taken place in the area, consulting his assistant before pointing to the spot and producing a red card.
Van Persie, who had smacked the top of the crossbar minutes earlier with a volley, calmly rolled his penalty into the bottom corner.
Fellaini, signed for 27.5 million pounds on deadline day, came off the bench in the middle of the second half with the tempo having drained out of the encounter.
After some neat early touches he almost found the net with a dipping volley from distance that tested the Palace keeper, but the better part of his contribution was helping subdue Palace's limited threat with his physical presence.
United had half chances to add to their advantage before Rooney's perfectly placed free kick secured the points.
"I thought we played well but I thought we needed to score a few more goals with the build up play we managed," United manager David Moyes said after securing a first win for his new team at Old Trafford.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)