Jose Mourinho admitted Manchester United rode their luck as Nemanja Matic’s late thunderbolt capped a dramatic 3-2 win at Crystal Palace on Monday.
Mourinho’s side trailed to Andros Townsend’s early opener and Patrick van Aanholt’s second-half effort at Selhurst Park.
But Chris Smalling got one back for United and Romelu Lukaku equalised with 14 minutes remaining.
That set the stage for Serbia midfielder Matic to score for the first time since his move from Chelsea last year with a blistering blast from the edge of the area in stoppage-time.
It was an escape act that seemed unlikely when United fell 2-0 behind after being out-fought and out-played by a Palace team fighting gamely to avoid relegation.
But Mourinho took heart from the way his players shrugged off their limp opening to move back above Liverpool into second place in the Premier League and within 16 points of runaway leaders Manchester City.
“You always need that little bit of luck to win a match in the last few minutes,” Mourinho said.
“We played very good quality football in the second half but we made so many defensive mistakes.
“That disgraceful, childish second goal changed everything. But the players kept an amazing attitude.
“I cannot tell you half of the things I told my team at halftime because there would be lots of bleeping on television.
“To come back from 2-0 away from home against a team that is desperate for points, it gives us a great feeling.”
Third-bottom Palace deserved better, but they remain one point from safety after a heartbreaking loss.
United paid the price for their lethargic start in the 11th minute.
Christian Benteke was allowed to jink into the United penalty area unchecked by Smalling and when his pass picked out Townsend 18 yards from goal, the Palace winger unleashed a shot that took a wicked deflection off Lindelof as it looped past David De Gea.
With Matic and Paul Pogba rattled by Palace’s relentless pressing, United were unable to match their opponents’ intensity.
The out of form Pogba, dropped several times by Mourinho recently, was a major cause of the visitors’ woes as the France midfielder wasted possession and was caught out of position time and again.
He was playing so badly that United legend Gary Neville, working for Sky Sports, was moved to say: “It’s like everything he does is like a YouTube or Instagram video.
“It’s like it’s not serious, it’s like a joke to him in terms of the way he goes about things.”
Mourinho kept faith with Pogba, instead sending on Marcus Rashford for Scott McTominay at halftime.