Manchester United took all three points in a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace but the match will provide manager Erik ten Hag with yet another challenge as he tries to keep the team in contention for Champions League. In the 70th minute of the match Casemiro was red carded for putting his hands around the neck of Will Hughes during a contentious coming together between the two teams. While United were able to hold on for the victory, the card means they'll be without Casemiro for three matches so their midfield lost a critical member for the second week running. The suspension follows the injury to Christian Eriksen who will miss another two months with an ankle injury.
Ten Hag isn't happy about it. "Casemiro crossed the line; you saw that," he said after the match. "However, I'm unhappy with the inconsistent refereeing; not only this game but also in Palace. They elbowed [Lisandro] Martínez and last week with Eriksen."
It's understandable that Ten Hag might feel hard done by inconsistent refereeing but really all you can ask for is that an individual referee maintains the same standard for the duration of a match. The reality is that different referees will call matches in unique ways so the week to week feel won't be the same. It's part of the way the game operates and VAR was introduced to ensure that big calls are correct while smaller calls aren't reviewed to keep the spirit of the game alive. In the case of Casemiro's actions, they obviously deserved the red as any hands to the face or neck is a red card offense by the laws of the game.
The issue for United is that they're now down their entire starting midfield pivot for the next three matches, so new signing Marcel Sabitzer is going to find himself thrown into a situation where he must contribute immediately. Coming off the bench sparingly for Bayern Munich before making the move to United, Sabitzer will need to prove that he has the fitness to keep play ticking over without Casemiro as soon as United's next match against Leeds United.
Given that the other option is playing Scott McTominay alongside Fred, ten Hag will likely test Sabitzer quickly. He did get a few minutes in the match against Crystal Palace but those weren't as meaningful as the upcoming matches will be. United's advantage for a top four place is razor thin with Tottenham not only looming six points behind them but also having strenthend by adding Pedro Porro and Arnut Danjuma during the transfer window.
Sabitzer is a shrewd signing by the Red Devils but the plan was likely to ramp him up physically in order to build him up to being a replacement for Eriksen for the next few months. With no Casemiro, well laid plans are out the window and it's now make or beak time for Sabitzer and United to keep their good form going and increase their lead for a Champions League place.