Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said that his team could have won 5-0 against Crystal Palace — and revealed that Matteo Darmian had been the best finisher in training.

Darmian’s cross led to the own goal from Damien Delaney which gave United a 1-0 lead, then the Italian defender struck a powerful shot to complete a comfortable 2-0 win against a poor Palace team.

The result vindicated Van Gaal’s attacking team selection, set up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Wayne Rooney in midfield, and the Dutchman was pleased with the performance.

“It was a match of 5-0, I think, but I am pleased with the way we played,” Van Gaal said. “We created a lot of chances and did not give much away.

“Darmian was surprising me on Monday in the training session. We did a finishing session and he was top scorer at that time. He did it with his left foot and right foot. I was very happy for him.”

Discussing Rooney’s role and the formation, the United manager added: “Not any player has a fixed position. I use them where I think they can give a higher contribution in a particular game.

“It was more of a midfield role today, also because of the way Crystal Palace play, and I didn’t want to change [Marcus] Rashford from that [striker] position, so I had to look from another position for Wayne.”

United have now won six consecutive league games at home, keeping five clean sheets in the process. Those victories at Old Trafford have come against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Everton, Watford, Arsenal and Stoke.

They are just two points behind local rivals Manchester City in the race for a top-four finish and Van Gaal stressed that, despite this win, they had to quickly focus on recovery ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Everton.

“Within two days, we have to play again,” he said. “We have shown that many times. Now we have to do that again.

“We have to work very hard to reach this level because we have had a very full season. We have played in three competitions. It is unbelievable, much more matches than last year. When we survive Everton, I shall give players a lot of days off.”