United collected a first home league win under David Moyes by seeing off Crystal Palace with a goal in each half through Robin van Persie and the returning Wayne Rooney.
Ashley Young was a central figure in the first half as he was brought down by Kagisho Dikgacoi to allow van Persie to net a penalty after earlier being booked by referee Jon Moss for simulation after tangling with the same player.
Both sides seemed to take time to settle in the early kick-off and there were precious few efforts on goal until the match livened up following a magical backheeled attempt by van Persie that flew wide.
Van Persie opted for power rather than precision after chesting down an exquisite pass by Rooney and crashed past Julian Speroni but against the bar. Rooney, playing wearing a protective headband, was unable to reach a Young cross but Dwight Gayle lofted a clear opportunity at the other end wide after getting the better of Rio Ferdinand.
The key moment came just before half time as referee Moss awarded United a penalty and sent Dikgacoi off after some sloppy defending allowed Young through on goal. Van Persie kept his cool to beat Speroni from the spot for his fifth goal of the domestic season.
Any thoughts that the Reds would run away with the game after the interval were dismissed as Young could only fire a precise Anderson through ball at Speroni. The introduction of Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj helped spark sustained pressure as Speroni scrambled away a Fellaini drive, van Persie curled over the top and Rooney had shot blocked. The