Marcus Rashford continued his scoring streak after the World Cup as a reduced 10-man Manchester United squad survived late pressure from Crystal Palace to secure Premier League victory at Old Trafford.
Bruno Fernandes opened the scoring from the penalty spot after the video assistant referee spotted a handball from Will Hughes and United appeared to be cruising when Rashford slotted home Luke Shaw’s cross 17 minutes into the game second half for his 11th goal since returning from Qatar.
But the contest turned dramatically when, in the midst of a confrontation that resulted in Antony and Jeffrey Schlupp being warned, VAR Tony Harrington spotted Casemiro with his hands around Hughes’ neck.
After a pitchside review, referee Andre Marriner sent off the influential Brazilian for violent conduct, triggering an immediate three-match national ban.
Schlupp halved the deficit almost immediately and amid increasingly frantic scenes around home, United finished the game with four centre-backs protecting their goal as Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof were added to the pair of departure Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane.
Respective managers Erik ten Hag and Patrick Vieira, who started the afternoon by laying wreaths in honor of the victims of the 1958 Munich air disaster, ended it by fuming at fourth official Joshua Smith, then marching to the center circle to make their points to Marriner as the two objected to decisions that went against their team.
United’s 13th straight win at Old Trafford lifts them to third in the table while Palace remain 12th.
Rashford and Fred key for United
With Antony Martial ruled out with injury, Rashford’s goal production will be crucial for United.
He now has 19 in all competitions and the Englishman also claimed an assist for the hosts’ opener when his cross was managed by Hughes and Fernandes converted the resulting penalty.
If Rashford’s goals are needed, and with Casemiro now missing two Premier League games in five days against Leeds and the home encounter with Leicester on February 19, Fred is almost as important.
The Brazilian has tended to be seen as an example of United’s profligacy in the transfer market.
It cost £47million in 2018 but rarely showed anything positive beyond running furiously with no great end product.
Still, as Ten Hag pointed out recently, midfielder Casemiro’s partners for his country “and Brazil are not a bad team”, suggesting the 29-year-old is capable of more than he has. produced during his nearly five seasons in the Premier League. .
He’s been looking at a different player lately.
Fred is always hustling and harassing, but he also ties up play well, is ready to shoot from distance and, as he proved when he burst into the box and sent Wout Weghorst’s reduction to the near post just wide from the palace goal, can be a significant threat inside the area as well.
When he lay on his back deep in added time and gulped some air, it underlined the effort Fred had put in during United’s desperate defense at the end.
The bad race of the palace continues
It was yet another day when Palace played well and ended unrewarded.
Vieira’s side now have five points from their last eight games, a form that needs to be reversed if they are to avoid trouble at the bottom of the table.
Schlupp was excellent. His goal was instinctive and he also created an opening in the first half with a neat turn into space.
The absence of Wilfried Zaha with a hamstring injury was not a blow in that regard and it took a brilliant save from David de Gea to deny skipper Marc Guehi and concede the corner from which Palace scored .
However, while they are unquestionably a better team to watch than in the days of Roy Hodgson, they are also easier to face.
They have just five top clean sheets all season and the place given to Rashford for what turned out to be the winner was poor considering his closeness to goal. Amid the fluidity of his team further forward, Vieira must not neglect the basic art of defense.
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