Mixed fortunes filled Manchester United’s previous week, after they bounced from the 7-0 rip-off by Liverpool in the English Premier League, by beating Real Betis in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Round of 16. The Red Devils welcomed Southampton, the rock-bottom team in the league table to Old Trafford for United’s 26th game in the Premier League. The game witnessed a goalless draw, but tensions, dramas and controversies made the clash sound more interesting than its result, especially when United’s Brazilian central defensive midfielder Casemiro was sent off for the second time in 39 days while playing for the team in red.
Two Red Cards for Real Madrid in Eight Seasons, Two in 39 Days for the Devils
Erik ten Hag shifted things up for his starting line-up against Saints, with two players replaced from that squad that began the match against Real Betis last Thursday. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Jadon Sancho were preferred by the 53-year-old Dutch manager in this match instead of Diogo Dalot and Fred, whereas Southampton’s interim manager Rubén Sellés made only a single replacement to the Saints team that overcame Leicester City last time around.
United almost made the breakthrough in the 16th minute, when Marcus Rashford was cleared around the left area of the penalty box. The in-form forward had options to square a pass for Wout Weghorst or to go ahead with his own effort, in which the England international did the latter, but his shot was parried away by Saints’ goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. The visiting Southampton went close to punish United before the Stretford End, but fans can thank David de Gea for his save over ex-Arsenal winger Theo Walcott’s solid header.
The moment of the match came when Casemiro collided with Carlos Alcaraz after the half-hour mark. Referee Anthony Taylor initially gave a yellow card for the Brazilian, before rectifying his penalisation to a straight red card upon video assistant referee (VAR) check. The 31-year-old São José dos Campos-born player was seen in tears as despite the heavy challenge, there was no real intention for the player in red to inflict an injury towards the Argentine. The send-off meant Casemiro had gotten his second red card in less than one and a half months for the Red Devils, which were as many as he received during his nine-year tenure with Spanish La Liga’s juggernaut Real Madrid.
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Distraught United Almost Took All Three Points
The Red Devils were saddened with Casemiro’s early exit from the game, but was fumed to find the goal and nearly drew first blood six minutes before the added time. Bruno Fernandes’ freekick delivery found Raphaël Varane, whose close-ranged shot was saved by the brave Bazunu. The home side was eager to break the deadlock, but ten Hag knew they cannot afford to go all out with a man down, hence he brought on Scott McTominay for Weghorst before half-time.
The second 45 minutes were even more intriguing than the first, when set-piece maestro James Ward-Prowse’s freekick went slightly over the bar nine minutes after the restart, before Walcott broke free to have a shot on his own. The former England international was pushed to his weaker left side, hence his following finish was not as pretty as he would have expected.
Southampton’ failed attempts gave the Red Devils the chance to see off their opponent, with Bruno inches away from giving the home side the lead, when his long-ranged strike edged past Bazunu, but bounced off the post and went out for a corner. The woodwork turned to become United’s hero next, after Kyle Walker-Peters’ left-footed shot hit the post. There were no real chances in the remaining 20 minutes or so, with United dropping points once again in the Premier League.
Taylor is a dreadful ref….Casemiro gets the ball first ffs
— Mark Goldbridge (@markgoldbridge) March 12, 2023
One Point Gained or Two Points Dropped?
Manchester United’s Dutch head coach ten Hag was furious about Antony Taylor’s seemingly poor decision to send his summer signing off in the match. “What I think is the inconsistency; players don’t know anymore what is the policy, and I think it’s all across [every competition]. And then it’s two penalty situations, but they don’t come online. Especially the first one, it was clear and obvious handball, so what is the policy?”, the 53-year-old former Ajax manager said.
Casemiro’s second red card in domestic games meant he will miss the next four United matches in the Premier League as well as the FA Cup, including a Carabao Cup Final rematch with Newcastle United early April.