Manchester United was dealt a spectacular reality check by an equally stunning goal just as they dared to think that they were back in the Premier League title chase.
Michael Olise’s outstanding free kick in stoppage time saved Palace a point in a game that looked to be in hand for United. They let it slip, which is something that champions never do.
Their longest winning streak in 14 years, a 10th straight victory across all competitions, eluded them, and manager Erik ten Hag expressed his displeasure by leaving the field after the final whistle while shaking his head. Well, he could.
Even momentarily, United came so close to passing Manchester City for second place in the standings, which would have improved the chances of a Sunday matchup against league-leading Arsenal. But they now travel there with a loss of ground and without Casemiro, who was cited for stabbing Wilfried Zaha and is now suspended.
Ten Hag will reflect on how the win slipped away and why United did not continue after their breakthrough.
With the arrival of Wout Weghorst, United has tried to increase their firepower. In one of the more unexpected moves, the 30-year-old striker from Burnley was bought on loan, and he began and played for over 70 minutes. What was he like? Ten Hag will counter that he was sufficient, but United needed more, as it turned out.
Even though the primary objective of this campaign is Champions League qualifying, United is aware that they have an unexpected opportunity to return to the title discussion. However, Palace deserved to tie.
Eight months have passed when Ten Hag attended Selhurst Park to observe United for the first time as manager. They lost 1-0, looked dejected, and the difference last night was clear. This was their worst Premier League season. Bruno Fernandes, who is re-establishing himself in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure and appears to be a true leader and influence, is the person with the most confidence right now.
His goal, which came two minutes before halftime, was well-taken and built, and it came just when Palace’s tail was up. Palace came the closest to scoring, but David de Gea wonderfully denied Odsonne Edouard as the Holmesdale End’s drums beat and hymns were chanted.
Edouard outmuscled Raphael Varane on the edge of the box, appearing to find the top corner with a dipping shot. However, De Gea quickly reacted to tip the ball onto the top of the crossbar.
It proved crucial. Before Marcus Rashford broke through the Palace defense to locate Christian Eriksen’s shrewd run and the midfielder had the presence of mind to draw the ball back to where Fernandes had slid into space, United had dominated but with little to show for it. United was up after the Portugal international took a touch and chose his location.
Prior to then, Fernandes’ most notable contribution had been a fight with teammate Antony during which the Brazilian turned into a pantomime villain after squabbling with Tyrick Mitchell, who tackled him as they pursued the ball by the touchline.
When Mitchell and Marc Guehi hesitated, Antony snuck in to take advantage. He was able to lift the ball over goalkeeper Vicente Guaita but it also went wide of the mark. Antony should have given United the lead. It was a possibility. When the ball was in his area, Guaita of Palace appeared panicked and spewed a Fernandes pass in the direction of the outstanding Eriksen.
The United supporters chanted “We want Glazers out” during a break in play when Lisandro Martinez received treatment for what appeared to be a stray elbow to the head from Jean-Philippe Mateta, with the selling process now, happily, moving more quickly. Martinez came back, his head wrapped, giving the Argentine even more of a warrior appearance.
As Weghorst received Luke Shaw’s throw but angled his header onto the roof of the net, it was tetchy for a bit before United finally produced a cross for him.
Early in the second half, when United attempted to score, Fernandes had another attempt blocked and Antony’s shot ballooned over. After Michael Olise’s injury, there was another lull in play, and this time a fan got to enter the field and take a picture with Casemiro. Surprisingly, the stewards hardly did anything but wait until he was finished before taking him out.
As the game dragged on, Palace began to believe that they had a chance to save it, and De Gea once more performed admirably to stop Guehi’s forceful header from a corner as they finally presented a threat.
Palace countered after Rashford was taken out of play because United was playing a risky style. Following another frantic challenge that resulted in a free kick, Olise rose to take it. Despite the fact that Olise’s shot was powerful, accurate, and placed in the top corner, De Gea appeared to be invincible. Olise didn’t go all out in his revelry. Ten Hag observed somberly that the Palace’s followers weren’t.
United will claim that there should have been a penalty before that due to what appeared to be a trip on Scott McTominay by Chris Richards, but in reality, they had allowed this to happen, and in stoppage time Casemiro narrowly missed meeting a corner when the ball fell to him inside the six-yard box.