Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney sealed a 2-0 win over 10-man Crystal Palace as David Moyes recorded his first home victory as Manchester United manager in front of his predecessor Alex Ferguson on Saturday.
United again failed to hit the form that carried them to the Premier League title last season, but Van Persie's first half penalty and Rooney's late free-kick ended the champions' run of two matches without a win.
Moyes also gave a second half debut to Marouane Fellaini, the £27.5 million deadline day signing from Everton, and the Belgian midfielder made a solid start to life at his new club.
It was van Persie who settled United's nerves following an edgy first half by scoring from the penalty spot in the 45th minute, although the award and goal were not without controversy.
England winger Ashley Young had been cautioned midway through the period for diving under a challenge from Kagisho Dikgacoi as he surged into the area.
But in the final minute, following a dreadful pass from Mile Jedinak, the pair again collided as Young collected the errant ball and sprinted into the area where he was brought down by Dikgacoi.
Palace players appealed that the challenge was fair - and also outside the area - but referee Jon Moss disagreed, awarding the spot kick and sending off Dikgacoi for the infringement.
Van Persie compounded Palace agony when he coolly converted the kick, low to the right of goalkeeper Julian Speroni.
Just moments earlier Palace might have taken the lead as United's nerves began to show, Rio Ferdinand misjudging an Adrian Mariappa pass and allowing Dwight Gayle to ghost goal-side of him only for the visitor to steer a shot narrowly wide.
The goal would have been no more than Ian Holloway's side deserved for a patient first half in which they had weathered practically everything United had thrown at them.
The only time the champions looked like scoring was from a superb move which ended with Rooney picking out van Persie who controlled the ball on his chest before volleying, first-time, against the crossbar.
United had otherwise been limited to long-range shots with Michael Carrick testing Speroni with one, early 25-yard effort which the keeper parried acrobatically.
Van Persie had also given United supporters - including the watching Ferguson - a brief glimmer of hope with an audacious back heel, from Patrice Evra's 35th minute cross, which flew into the side-netting.
After the restart, Moyes brought on Fellaini as a 63rd minute substitute, the Belgian being afforded a rapturous welcome from United supporters, many of whom were wearing comedy wigs in honour of his vibrant haircut.
It was also little surprise when Moyes also replaced the inconsistent Young with promising youngster Adnan Januzaj.
The two replacements combined as United almost added a second goal after 67 minutes with a Januzaj shot being saved by Speroni and Fellaini following up with a 25-yard shot which the keeper did well to block.
The pair certainly added some much-needed urgency and direction to United's attacking play but van Persie and Rooney remained below their usually lofty standards, with the former shooting well over from a promising position and the latter finding the ball stuck between his feet, and failing to get in a shot, from just six yards.
Finally, after Adlene Guedioura was penalised for a foul on Januzaj nine minutes from time, Rooney was given another chance to cap his return with a goal and he did just that with a superb, right-footed 20-yard free-kick which sailed over the wall and past Speroni.