Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford scored the goals which gave Ten Hag yet another three points. The game exploded into life in the second half as Casemiro saw red for United’s first sending off of the season and Palace pulled one back in a nervy ending. Ultimately, they held firm to keep them in the chasing back.
It was another fruitless encounter for the away side though. They seemed content to sit back and frustrate United despite being behind early. Only after they had a man advantage did they commit to trying to get a positive result. They are yet to see a win in 2023 and looking over their shoulder.
Erik ten Hag made just the two changes from the side who reached the Carabao Cup on Wednesday. David de Gea and Marcus Rashford returned to side instead of Tom Heaton and Alejandro Garnacho. New loan signing Marcel Sabitzer started on the bench alongside Jadon Sancho and Diego Dalot. Patrick Viera made three alterations from their last game which was two weeks ago. Will Hughes, Michael Olise, and Nathaniel Clyne replaced Eberechi Eze, Wilfred Zaha and Joel Ward. The latter two were missing due to injury. Recent signings Naouirou Ahamada and Albert Sambi Lokonga started on the bench.
The minute silence of the 65th anniversary of the Munich disaster was impeccably observed by all in the stadium. They were soon making their voices heard though. Marcus Rashford hammered in a cross that struck the raised arm of Will Hughes. After a VAR check, the penalty was awarded and Bruno Fernandes stepped up to slot it past Vincent Guaita the wrong way. It maintained his good scoring form since the World Cup.
Raphael Varane almost made it two shortly afterwards as he was un-marked from a corner. His header was tipped away by the Palace keeper. Wout Weghorst also had a chance but was just off target. Guaita was the busier of the two keepers and he denied Rashford at his near post after he was fed by Fernandes before stopping an effort by Antony on the follow-up corner.
Whilst it remained one-nil, the visitors knew that they had a chance of getting something. Chris Richards headed wide from a Michael Olise corner and Jeffrey Schlupp drilled in an effort from 30 yards which forced David de Gea into his first real save as half time approached.
Palace were again coming forward at the start of the second half. Odsonne Edouard embarked on a solo run into the United penalty area before he was stopped by Lisandro Martinez. The striker then attempted to run onto a through-ball from Hughes before it was intercepted by the United defence. It was noticeable that the intensity had dropped from the home side as their passing was sloppier and lacking the pace from the opening period.
A change helped bring about the second goal. Alejandro Garnacho had replaced Weghorst and he found Luke Shaw out wide in a sweeping United move. The defender put an immediate cross into the area. Rashford got ahead of his marker to slot home from around eight yards out.
The main moment of controversy occurred when a melee broke out shortly afterwards. It started when Schlupp shoved Antony off the pitch which saw various players getting involved. Both players were booked, but Casemiro got sent off for allegedly putting his arms around Hughes.
Suddenly Palace were the side on the ascendancy and were rewarded with a goal back. A corner was swung in, Cheick Doucouré mis-hit his shot and Schlupp stuck out a leg to bundle it home. He had just stolen the march on Rashford who was marking him. Given he was the player who kicked off the whole fracas, it was a bit of a kicker.
Substitute Eberechi Eze came close twice in succession as the ten-men frantically sought to keep their advantage. Martinez again holding firm at the back. Varane was also on his game to block an effort by Jean-Philippe Mateta before it came to anything. The substitute then headed over after a corner wasn’t cleared effectively. Rashford seemed to have had the entire half to run into before the referee blew up for an earlier foul. Nerves kicking in as seven minutes injury time was indicated.
Nine were actually played but they did manage to hang on to record their 13th home win in a row in all competitions. It keeps their hopes of finishing in the top four alive. Ten Hag was clearly peeved upon the final whistle and may well appeal the sending off. It will be a quick turnaround for them before they face Leeds at home on Wednesday at 20.00. Palace have a ‘derby’ against Brighton at home next Saturday at 15:00.