MANCHESTER, England (AP) — After reigniting hope of an English Premier League title challenge, Manchester United was left counting the cost of Casemiro’s red card after beating Crystal Palace 2-1 on Saturday.
The Brazil international was sent off in the second half for grabbing Palace midfielder Will Hughes by the neck and will serve a three-match ban for violent conduct.
United is already without Christian Eriksen for the majority of the rest of the season because of an ankle injury and must cope with the loss of another influential midfielder.
Casemiro was sent off in the 70th minute, shortly after Marcus Rashford put United ahead 2-0.
Following a tussle between the teams on the sideline, VAR asked referee Andre Marriner to review footage of Casemiro and the decision was a straight red.
His absence was immediately felt as Palace set up a tense finish, with Jeffrey Schlupp scoring six minutes after Casemiro's dismissal.
“We played a brilliant game, I thought it was a really high level the first 70 minutes until that incident," United manager Erik ten Hag said.
United players were angered following an altercation between Schlupp and Brazil winger Antony.
“Then you see this team stands for each other," Ten Hag said. "There is such a good spirit in the team and they don’t accept when a player from us can be badly injured. That is the way Antony got treated.”
Bruno Fernandes opened the scoring from the penalty spot and United looked set to cruise to victory when Rashford added another.
But in front an increasingly nervous Old Trafford crowd, Palace dominated once the home team was reduced to 10 men.
United held on to move within eight points of leader Arsenal, which lost at Everton 1-0.
The celebrations from the crowd at the final whistle after seven minutes of added time demonstrated how important the fans believe the result could be as the gap to the top of the table was closed.
How to handle the loss of Casemiro, however, will be a concern for Ten Hag.
Casemiro has been outstanding for United since his summer move to England and his importance was underlined when he was suspended for the 3-2 loss to Arsenal last month.
That suspension came after he received a fifth booking of the season, which also came against Palace.
He will miss consecutive league games against Leeds and Leicester.
United won at home for the 13th time in a row as Ten Hag’s influence continues to be felt in his first season.
He has already led the team to the final of the League Cup, and Arsenal’s loss provided hope of a potential challenge for a first league title since 2013.
Fernandes put United ahead in the seventh after Hughes handled in the box.
Rashford then doubled the lead in the 62nd with a close-range finish.
But what looked like being a comfortable win was thrown into doubt after Casemiro’s red.
Schlupp beat David de Gea after United failed to clear a Palace corner, and the visitors applied the pressure in the closing stages.
Roared on by the home crowd, United, which conceded a late equalizer in a draw with Palace last month, avoided a repeat.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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James Robson, The Associated Press