Deep breaths everyone.
Manchester United held on to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 in what turned out to be a much more dramatic finish than it seemed after an hour or so of play. Casemiro’s sending off complicated matters and handed Patrick Vieira’s side momentum, but in the end a strong defensive and time killing performance got them through.
United got off to a hot start and won a penalty for Bruno Fernandes to convert after just a few minutes. Rashford’s cross was blocked by Will Hughes’ raised arm, and a VAR check convinced the referee to point to the spot. The Portuguese no. 8’s hop step sent Guaita the wrong way and gave United the 1-0 early lead.
They kept the pressure up, and apart from a couple set pieces from midfield Palace were pinned back for most of the first half hour. Fred nearly doubled the lead after 35 minutes, set up by Wout Weghorst’s run to the byline, but the ball found the side netting.
The first half finished without a second goal for the Reds, but their control of the game carried over into the second half. A good chance fell for Rashford, but he couldn’t put the powerful shot on target after cutting past his marker. Weghorst’s presence remained important up top, but he failed to influence much past that, and he was withdrawn just before the hour for Alejandro Garnacho. The Argentine winger took over on the left with Rashford moving inside.
It paid off within 3 minutes. After working the ball all around the outside of the area it finally fell towards the left, and Rashford finished off a low cross from Luke Shaw with a perfect first time finish. It was the goal they needed to further take over the match, with Palace not exactly threatening but certainly not going away easily. And after the 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park in January they would have known not to risk clinging to a one goal lead against a team with their quality.
Unfortunately for United, Palace were gifted a way back in. After a hard foul on Antony both teams got in each others faces, and in the chaos Casemiro was caught by VAR for putting his hands on Will Hughes’ neck. A straight red card was shown, meaning a three match suspension for the Brazilian and 10-men for the rest of the match. Jeffrey Schlupp equalized on a corner soon after, and it was game on from there for the final minutes.
A Palace player put his hands on Fred’s neck during the scuffle as well, but the VAR check didn’t result in a red card for them.
Marcel Sabitzer came on for Antony to help sure things up in midfield, but Palace had taken the momentum. Their attacks all looked threatening, a reflection of just how much the red card changed the match, and ten Hag had to react accordingly. Garnacho made way for Harry Maguire despite having only just come on before the scuffle, and Lindelof came on for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, putting all four centre backs on the pitch to pack things in for the final stretch.
Seven minutes of stoppage time gave Palace plenty of time to find an equalizer, but United did an excellent job clearing a couple set piece opportunities before a foul on Rashford gave them a breather. They booted it long and pressed the Palace defense, wasting about five minutes by keeping the ball up and clearing it for throw ins whenever they could. Lisandro Martinez in particular gave a man of the match performance, and had the final key clearance to get over the line.
The suspension of Casemiro hurts with back to back matches against Leeds coming up, followed by a visit from Leicester City, but holding on to keep all three points after a total loss of control was a positive to take away.