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Below their best, Man United cruise past still goalless Crystal Palace

MANCHESTER, England -- Three thoughts from Old Trafford on Manchester United's 4-0 win vs. Crystal Palace in the Premier League.

1. United dodge potential banana skin ahead of "tricky" run.

If Jose Mourinho had been concerned about the threat posed by Crystal Palace to Manchester United's fine start to the season, he did not need to be.

His players arrived back from a 4,000-mile round-trip to Moscow at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning. Palace, meanwhile, had the entire week to work out how they were going to get their first points of the season at Old Trafford.

Manchester UnitedManchester United
Crystal PalaceCrystal Palace
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But if you didn't know any better, you would not have known which team was which.

Juan Mata scored his first goal of the season with less than three minutes on the clock. Marouane Fellaini scored either side of half-time to ensure the game was over as a contest by the time his second hit the net after 49 minutes.

Romelu Lukaku, passed fit after picking up a knock in training on Friday, got his now customary goal after 86 minutes. That's 11 in 10 games since his move from Everton.

Most of United's players now head off on international duty. 

When they get back they face four consecutive away games against Liverpool, Benfica, Huddersfield and Swansea in the Carabao Cup.

Man United weren't their best and didn't need to be as they strolled to a 4-0 win vs. goalless Crystal Palace.

Mourinho described it as a "tricky run" in his programme notes ahead of the game, the inference being that his team had to capitalise on a home game against the Premier League's bottom club.

They did.

It took just two minutes and 25 seconds to prove it was not going to be one of those awkward days against a team fighting for their lives.

After a flurry of late goals at the start of the season, Mata's goal was the fourth time in the past five matches United have scored inside the first five minutes.

How Mourinho would love for that run to continue against Liverpool at Anfield on Oct. 14.

2. Mata and Fellaini surviving and thriving

Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini have the dubious honour of being the only two players whom David Moyes managed to sign during his ill-fated 10-month spell at Old Trafford. 

Louis van Gaal came and went before both were linked with exits when Jose Mourinho arrived. 

Yet, both are still here and, more importantly, thriving.

Mourinho doesn't miss an opportunity to tell everyone how important Fellaini is. 

And despite having Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard available, he always finds room for Mata. The only Premier League game he has not started this season was the 2-2 draw at Stoke.

Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini
Marouane Fellaini's resurgence continues, as a brace vs. Palace continues his unlikely redemption story.

Both Mata and Fellaini offer something different -- it is part of their appeal for Mourinho.

Not a stereotypical wide man, Mata drifts inside off the right to create space for Antonio Valencia to fly down the wing. It was how the Spaniard scored against Palace, running off the right touchline to sweep in Rashford's pinpoint cross. 

Fellaini's first goal owed much to Ashley Young's cross, a fantastic ball dipped into the back post. His second was a deft header from Rashford's free kick.

The Belgian has been the main beneficiary of Paul Pogba's injury. And like Pogba, he is a goal threat, just in a very different way than the Frenchman. He has already got four in all competitions this season, just three shy of his best tally for United.

3. Palace struggling for points, goals and confidence

Roy Hodgson will feel he still has plenty of time to turn things around at Crystal Palace, and that much is true. But another game without a point or a goal will not help the confidence levels at Selhurst Park. 

Hodgson can, at least, take some positives. 

His team didn't fold despite going behind so early, and there was a period in the first half when Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were required to defend well to stop Palace from equalising. Even with Eric Bailly left on the bench, United looked solid.

Palace have now gone seven league games without a goal. It was unfortunate, then, that they came up against a team that hasn't conceded a league goal at home since April 30.

Next up for Hodgson's team is a home game against Chelsea, then a trip to Newcastle and West Ham's visit to Selhurst Park. It is those games against Newcastle and West Ham that will show how equipped they are to beat the drop.

They will be a better team when Wilfried Zaha returns from injury. But if he is in the team to create chances, Hodgson still needs to find someone to put them away. 

Christian Benteke's knee injury is a big blow, and there is not an obvious replacement. Neither Bakary Sako or Freddie Ladapo could cause United any problems. It may be something that can only be rectified in the January transfer window.

Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.


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