Stunning Palace late equaliser keeps Man United third in Premier League

Manchester United missed an opportunity to go second in the Premier League as Michael Olise’s sensational stoppage-time free-kick rescued a 1-1 draw for Crystal Palace.

United appeared to be heading for a sixth consecutive Premier League win and 10th in all competitions thanks to Bruno Fernandes’ goal before half-time, but Olise salvaged a point in dramatic style, his curling set-piece crashing in off the underside of the bar in the 91st minute.

United, who have not won the Premier League since 2012-13, are now eight points behind leaders Arsenal while also denting their title hopes. With the Gunners having a game in hand, and the two teams meet at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

David de Gea had kept Palace at bay before that, making outstanding saves from Odsonne Edouard and Marc Guehi, but he couldn’t do anything about Olise’s stunning effort as United spurned the opportunity to close the gap to Arsenal to six points.

For United, the result was compounded by a booking for Casemiro, his fifth of the season, which means the key midfielder will be suspended for Sunday’s crucial showdown with Arsenal.

The draw does take United above Newcastle into third but keeps them behind rivals Manchester City, who play at home to Tottenham on Thursday but it proves to be a major boost to 12th-placed Palace, who had lost five of their previous six games in all competitions.

It is certainly a disappointing result for United as they hoped to show why they were becoming an increasingly-attractive proposition on the pitch as well as off it a day on from Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire owner of chemical group INEOS, entered the bidding to buy the club. But they had to work for their chances from the start at Selhurst Park, with Palace defending stubbornly against a side gaining confidence after recent rise in form.

For Palace, it ends a run of three successive defeats in all competitions and Patrick Vieira’s side will feel they got a deserved point. “It feels like a win because we are happy with not losing the game,” said Vieira.

“It was tough. Important not to concede the second goal and to stay strong in the second half. We built the momentum and belief and we got rewarded with Michael’s free-kick.”

“We wanted to have the ball and possession but we couldn’t because of Manchester United’s quality. We showed discipline and not conceding that second goal was important. We believed and then came the free-kick,” he added.

Erik ten Hag handed a Manchester United debut to Dutch striker Wout Weghorst following his loan move from Burnley earlier this month, but the closest he came to scoring was when he looped a header on to the roof of the net.

The disappointment was clear for Ten Hag, although there will still be plenty of positives to take for the Dutchman.

Ten Hag was in the stands watching at Selhurst Park for United’s last game of the 2021-22 season in May when, in Ralf Rangnick’s final match as interim manager, the Eagles won 1-0.

That result saw United finish sixth in the Premier League, 35 points behind champions Manchester City, and they only just scraped into the Europa League.

But United have improved vastly since then and, following the 6-3 humiliating defeat at City on 2 October, they have now only lost once in 20 matches in all competitions.

Nevertheless, with the manner of the late equaliser, United’s fans, players and coaching staff will be annoyed at letting the win slip away. “When you’re winning with two minutes to go, we dropped two points,” said Ten Hag.

“You don’t expect to drop points. We have to invest more to get that second goal and then not be in that situation that a lucky moment costs you two points.

“We were 1-0 up. In the second half we had a lot of space to kill them and go for the second. I never saw we really went for the second goal. I have to criticise my team. Go for the second.”

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