Manchester United’s first Premier League victory in three matches came at the cost of Casemiro’s 71st-minute red card for wrapping his hands around Will Hughes’s neck. On Friday Erik ten Hag admitted that losing his midfield general would be a seismic blow so a three-game suspension will really test United’s mettle.
Casemiro’s exit came following a melee on the touchline sparked by Jeffrey Schlupp’s challenge on Antony. The Crystal Palace midfielder was shown a yellow card but Casemiro was dismissed after Andre Marriner, under the VAR’s order, consulted the pitchside screen. The Brazil international will miss the home and away games against Leeds plus a meeting with Leicester but will be back for the Carabao Cup final against Newcastle. With the injured Christian Eriksen possibly out until early May and Scott McTominay also sidelined, Ten Hag may turn to the transfer deadline day loanee, Marcel Sabitzer.
“First of all, we have to deal with it and we will do, but it is not right. It shouldn’t have happened,” said Ten Hag. “We played a brilliant game, it was a really high level for 70 minutes until the incident and then you see this team stands up for each other, it’s such a good spirit. They don’t expect [the challenge] when a player can be badly injured and that’s the way Antony got treated.
“But you have to control your emotions. It’s really difficult in such a moment and I see two teams fighting, two teams of players crossing the line and one player gets picked out and sent off, and that’s not right [though] he crossed the line.”
Palace’s Jordan Ayew also put his hands on Fred. “That was one of the players who did even worse than Casemiro, he’s crossing the line there,” said Ten Hag. “Casemiro is protecting our player and also protecting the player who wants to attack.”
Soon after Palace pulled the contest back to 2-1: Cheick Doucouré’s mishit shot came to Schlupp who scored and celebrated fiercely, urging Palace on for an equaliser that never came despite a frantic finish.
United, in firm control while at full strength, earned an early penalty. Marriner went to the touchline monitor after Marcus Rashford’s cross hit Hughes on the arm and awarded a spot-kick which Bruno Fernandes converted. The move that led to this was key: Fred fed Luke Shaw along the left side of the Palace area in a close-quarters combination that could have been plucked from the Pep Guardiola manual.
United were high-octane, their fans a mass of delight. Antony won a corner which Shaw floated over to Wout Weghorst whose header had Vincente Guaita flying high to save.
Shaw, who is in rosy form, released Rashford and he should have squared to Weghorst. The left-back’s follow-up act was a slaloming run that cut through Palace and gained another corner. Twice Michael Olise, who scored the equaliser in the reverse fixture, slipped a free-kick behind United and each time they slumbered but this was as imaginative as Patrick Vieira’s side got.
United had not enjoyed three points since mid-January’s derby win, a result followed by the draw at Palace, and defeat at Arsenal. Today they were back to the form before this stutter. Yet after the break while Weghorst, in the side as Anthony Martial was injured again, chased the ball around, United became becalmed. An Olise corner caused panic in the area as Palace threatened a repeat of their Selhurst Park comeback. Rashford took charge and thumped at Guaita before, seconds later, Antony dashed around the outside and the visitors were pinned back once more.
Weghorst was replaced by the speedster Alejandro Garnacho. The 18-year-old’s contribution was telling, the swapping of passes with Casemiro, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Shaw preceded the latter’s cross being finished by Rashford for United’s second goal. It was the striker’s 19th goal of a consistently brilliant campaign.