Manchester United and Southampton played out an entertaining goalless draw at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon in a game where Casemiro was sent off for a tackle deemed by VAR to be more than the initial yellow card caution.
The Reds lined up with Bruno Fernandes operating deeper in the midfield alongside Casemiro to accommodate the presence of Jadon Sancho, which prompted a bright start for the home side that saw Marcus Rashford denied twice by Gavin Bazunu in quick succession around sixteen minutes in.
There was action at the other end around ten minutes later when David De Gea made a point-blank save from Theo Walcott’s central header.
A promising counter-attack turned into a head-in-hands moment for the Old Trafford faithful when Fernandes fired far over the crossbar after Antony had cut inside and teed him up from the right.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka switched off not even sixty seconds later to allow Carlos Alcaraz to find Kamaldeen Sulemana in behind, but Raphael Varane swiftly came in and swept up the mess.
Casemiro was booked just after the half-hour mark for a challenge on Alcaraz, but following a VAR review that saw Anthony Taylor go over to the monitor on the side of the pitch, the Brazilian midfielder was sent off. There is no denying contact was made with the studs and the upper ankle of the recipient, but whether or not there was malicious intent is another matter. Also, similar challenges in the Leicester City vs Chelsea match on Saturday went unnoticed, which has left many football fans puzzled in the wake of more inconsistent officiating in the elite league of world football.
It was a sad sight, with Casemiro visibly emotional in the arms of fellow countryman Antony.Embed from Getty Images
Varane was denied from close range by Bazunu before Wout Weghorst was replaced by Scott McTominay as the first half drew to a close.
McTominay nearly found himself on the wrong end of an own goal shortly after the break, but Wan-Bissaka was there to bail the Scotsman out.
James Ward Prowse clipped the bar with a free-kick minutes later and De Gea could only stand and stare. Had it dipped in, the midfielder would have equalled David Beckham’s Premier League record of 18 free-kicks at Old Trafford of all places.Embed from Getty Images
Southampton were knocking on the door as the hour mark passed, and the away side could have taken the lead if Theo Walcott would have made better use of his chance one-on-one with the goalkeeper; De Gea parried away the laboured, lofted finish with relative ease.
It was then the home team’s turn to attack when Fernandes let rip from outside the area from the left-hand side. The Portuguese clipped the post after Bazunu got the faintest of contact on the ball in the 68th minute.
Kyle Walker-Peters smacked the outside of the post with a wild effort a minute later, by which point many were branding the game as the best 0-0 of the season.
The game played out cagey in the final twenty minutes as Man United struggled to create chances with ten men and Southampton looked happy to take a point.
Substitute Alejandro Garnacho was crunched by Walker-Peters in a defensive challenge and the former stayed down in agony. After receiving some lengthy treatment, the winger continued before being replaced towards the end.
Final Score: Manchester United 0-0 Southampton [Casemiro 33’ (red card)]
Man of the matchEmbed from Getty Images
It felt like United lost their attacking edge after Casemiro’s dismissal, but something that remained constant throughout the ninety minutes was De Gea making big saves in between the sticks.
The Spaniard had an off game in midweek against Real Betis, but he was back to his sparkling best in the league on Sunday.
The 32-year-old produced a quality stop to prevent Walcott scoring with a header in the first half and denied the forward again in the second half when faced one-on-one. Whilst there were never spells in the game where the goalkeeper was peppered with shots on goal, De Gea pulled out some big saves to keep the game goalless, and he will have left Old Trafford with a sense of satisfaction with his clean sheet.
The bigger pictureEmbed from Getty Images
Supporters are mixed in their emotions following the draw.
On the one hand, there is the outlook that United did well to take a point with ten men having achieved a clean sheet with third place in the league table on lockdown for the time being. On the other hand, there is the view that Erik ten Hag and the players were hard done by with the sending off, and it denied United the chance to put away a poor opposition and take all the points.
Either way, the facts are the facts, and those are that United have come away from the weekend in third place having gained a point. Onto the next one.
A slightly more depressing fact is that Casemiro is now suspended following the red card. The 31-year-old will miss four games, one extra than a traditional straight red card suspension, due to the fact that it is his second sending-off of the season.
He is the first United player to receive two red cards in the same campaign since Nemanja Vidic in 2013/14. In addition, he has received as many red cards in 19 Premier League games as he did in 222 La Liga games (2).
The suspension means that Casemiro will miss Fulham in the FA Cup quarter-finals at home, Newcastle away in the league, Brentford at home in the league, and Everton at home in the league. It is time for McTominay to step up!
It was a quiet game for a lot of players, so there is not much to comment on in regard to individual performances. Facundo Pellistri got twenty minutes off the bench, so it was good to see the manager has that trust in him at ten men. All Reds fans will hope Garnacho is in one peace after hobbling off.
Next up for Ten Hag and United is Real Betis in the second leg of the Europa League round of sixteen tie, taking place at the Estadio Benito Villamarin at 17:45 (BST) on Thursday 16th March.
After that, United welcome Fulham to Old Trafford for an FA Cup quarter-final tie on Sunday 19th March, kicking off at 16:30 (BST).