IN the land of small mercies, at least Casemiro will be fit and fresh for the Carabao Cup final and the Euro clashes with Barcelona.
Yet it was hardly the way Erik ten Hag wanted Manchester United to prove that they can get by without their brilliant string-pulling Brazilian.
For the best part of 70 minutes all had gone pretty much to plan for United and their manager.
Two goals up, rarely having to break out of a canter, and cruising to a sixth consecutive Premier home win, a feat not achieved in 2017
Then in the space of one madcap minute suddenly a very dark cloud had wrapped itself around the silver lining.
Jeff Schlupp started it with a cheap and, to be honest, pretty cowardly shot in shoving Antony down the touchline banking and into the hoardings.
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Needless to say the Brazilian took offence and bounced back up to confront the Palace pusher…and, as ever with these things, everyone else piled in.
As the finger pointing, accusations and calm-it-down-lads subsided, referee Andre Marriner flashed a yellow card at both protagonists. But worse was to come for United.
Casemiro chose the hands-around-the-throat approach to keep Will Hughes away from the affray. As soon as VAR official Tony Harrington asked Marriner to take a look, you feared the worst.
Sure enough, out came the red, and United faced a final 20 minutes without the man who so many reckon holds the whole thing together here.
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Well we’ll soon see how much, as he now faces sitting out the Prem double-header against Leeds, and a clash with Leicester.
Bearing in mind the last time United were without him – that suspension at Arsenal after a booking at Palace of all places – the ten-game unbeaten run came to an abrupt halt.
At least he will be available to face Newcastle at Wembley. And at least United have another man who is not far behind in the how-vital-is-he stakes, with Bruno Fernandes.
The Portuguese midfielder has been at Old Trafford for three years and one week now, after his £47 million arrival from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020.
In all that time he has missed just ONE game through illness or injury – barring the ones when his various managers have rested him. Talk about Mr Dependable.
He has certainly been that of late, with a goal or assist in all five League matches this year.
Yesterday’s came after only four minutes – his 22nd successful spot kick against just three misses – to get United on the way to what initially looked like a pretty standard three points.
This time VAR ref Harrington was United’s pal, spotting Hughes’ left arm had turned Marcus Rashford’s cross away.
Up stepped Bruno and after a staccato stutter and couple of hops, he sent the ball left, keeper Vicente Guaita dived the other way and United were ahead.
For long periods after that it was nigh on a training ground game of attack versus defence. Palace were pitiful, United merely wasteful.
Guaita clawed out a Wout Weghorst header that was dropping in the top corner and Rashford strung the keeper’s palms with his tight-angled strike.
Then Anthony showed his right leg is, indeed, good for more than standing on with a strike that the Palace keeper batted down, before a Fred side foot found the side netting.
At times United would have met more resistance from a set of training ground cones, so poor were Patrick Vieira’s team.
It was dads v lads, fantasy versus flappers, hopefuls against hopeless, and a chance for the home side to go through their full bag of tricks.
We had Rashford nutmegging Nathanial Clyne, immediately trumped by Casemiro’s spinning one of his own to leave Cheick Doucoure red-faced.
And when Rashford poked in his tenth goal in 12 matches in all competitions since the World Cup – more than any other Prem player – it all seemed pretty run of the mill.
It came when Casemiro found Alejandro Garnacho, and the substitute’s cross was prodded home as Rashford got between Marc Guehi and Chris Richards.
But if ten Hag was hoping his side would see it out with minimum fuss, he couldn’t have been more wrong.
Ten minutes after Rashford’s steered-in second, came the flashpoint that now threatens to derail everything.
For a while yesterday it looked like derailing them immediately, as suddenly Palace had a shot in the arm their own performance hadn’t come close to producing.
The fact it came from Schlupp, turning Doucoure’s miss-hit strike past David de Gea from close range, merely heightened frustration and fury in equal measure among Red ranks.
From easy street to backs-to-the-wall in one deflected second, and suddenly it was United who were fighting not to survive exactly, but certainly to preserve their advantage.
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Fortunately for them Palace still couldn’t muster enough menace to repeat last month’s last-gasp equaliser.
This time United were able to hang on and see it out…although at what cost remains to be seen.
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