LONDON — Manchester United’s winning run came to a halt against Crystal Palace on Wednesday as Michael Olise’s stunning injury time freekick saw the game finish 1-1 at Selhurst Park.
It looked for all the world that Bruno Fernandes’ first-half goal was going to make it 10 wins on the bounce for Erik ten Hag’s United, but Olise’s incredible long-range effort in the 91st minute saw the game finish on equal footing.
The point will give a huge boost to Palace, but Olise’s wonder goal will be a huge blow for United as they sought to keep up the pressure on Arsenal at the top of the table ahead of their meeting on Sunday at the Emirates. Even more, United have to make that trip without midfielder Casemiro, who earned the final yellow card before suspension on Wednesday.
1. Man United let Palace back into the match and pay dearly
This was the perfect evening for Ten Hag — until the 80th minute. In two key moments, the balance of the title race shifted again further to the red side of north London ahead of Sunday’s match at the Emirates. First, Casemiro picked up a booking for a rash challenge on Wilfried Zaha, which was his fifth of the season and ruled out of the Arsenal match.
Then Olise scored a freekick for the ages with the clock ticking into the four minutes of injury time. It was to the right of United’s goal — about 30 yards or so out — and he found the top corner to secure the point with the help of the crossbar. For all Crystal Palace’s celebrations, you could feel the air sucked out of the United players.
Man United may feel aggrieved by a fruitless penalty shout in the 71st minute from Palace defender Chris Richards on Scott McTominay, but United were playing with fire. They failed to keep the pressure on Palace in the final 15 or so minutes of the match, with the home side invited on to United. They first had goalkeeper David de Gea to thank for a superb save off Marc Guehi off a corner but they failed to heed that warning. Ten Hag tried to change the balance of the match by bringing on McTominay and Fred, but they couldn’t turn the tide.
This will be a crushing blow to United’s aspirations. The gap between them and Arsenal now sits at eight points with Mikel Arteta’s Gunners team enjoying a game in hand.
United were chasing their 10th straight win, a record that would’ve seen them hit that milestone for the first time since 2009. They looked to have that momentum behind them, with some even talking up their title hopes. Bruno Fernandes’ first half goal was a classic Ten Hag move — quick passing, hitting Palace on the counter attack with Fernandes offered the space in the box to place it in the corner. But they couldn’t build on that and this setback is a real test of the squad’s temperament.
The players walked off with their heads bowed, knowing they had let three points slip by. It was testament to Palace who had hammered away at United at various stages, but failed to find the end product. That’s been symptomatic of their recent form — failing to score in three of their last Premier League matches — but Olise’s goal could be the fillip to move them up the table.
2. Weghorst’s debut gives United something to build on
On his debut, new striker Wout Weghorst offered United a point of difference up front.
Though it looked like a triple-pronged attack, the majority of Weghorst’s touches were behind the front two of Rashford and Antony as he dropped deep, drew defenders out of position and allowed the other two to exploit the space. This was an assured debut by the Dutchman as he showcased why Ten Hag has brought him in.
He held the ball up well, and his pressing caused Palace difficulty. He was constantly sniping at the Palace defenders’ ankles, trying to hustle and hurry them to win the ball back. His sole chance was a header which he lifted onto the top of the goal, but he also showed himself to be a handful from attacking set pieces given he towers above most other players in the league.
United have profited from loan signings in the past. Hark back to January 2007 when Ferguson brought in Henrik Larsson from Barcelona for three months, and the Swedish striker — then 35 years old — helped give the team fresh impetus as they went on to secure the 2006-07 title. A more recent example was Odion Ighalo back in 2020 who did well when given the chance. There are others at the opposite end of the scale – like Falcao’s ill-fated season-long loan in 2014-15 – but Weghorst made a promising start to his United career.
3. Despite thrilling comeback, Crystal Palace need reinforcements
You can imagine Patrick Vieira will be keeping his fingers crossed that in the final 13 days of the transfer window, the powers that be at Palace will strengthen the squad. For all their attacking, creative riches from players like Michael Olise and Wilfred Zaha, they struggle to turn that into clear cut chances.
They do create opportunities — like they did against Chelsea on Sunday — and they did again here against United. Edoard had one outstanding effort from distance — well saved by De Gea who turned it onto the bar — and Guehi had that second-half header well-saved. They have these glimpses of goal too where they manage to get the ball in the right area but a toe or forehead is agonisingly too far from providing the necessary clinical touch. That was until Olise struck his wondrous freekick.
Crystal Palace been linked with Conor Gallagher, and how they could use him back at the club again to help Cheick Doucoure in the middle of the pitch. And you feel alongside some reinforcing up front, they really missed the assured presence of Joachim Andersen at the back, though Chris Richards does warrant a notable mention on his first Premier League start as he did well to shut down two United counter attacks.
There’s class there in the Palace side, but they’re dangerously close to being sucked into a relegation battle.
Best and worst performers
Best: Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United
He was the best player on the pitch and deserved his first-half goal.
Best: Michael Olise, Crystal Palace
He was Palace’s standout player with his freekick — one of the best goals you’ll see this season.
Best: Lisandro Martinez, Manchester United
He was superb alongside Raphael Varane in the heart of United’s defence. He even drew blood for the cause after his head met Mateta’s elbow in the first half.
Worst: Jean-Philippe Mateta, Crystal Palace
Really struggled to get into the game, with the United defence marking him out of the game.
Worst: Odsonne Edoard, Crystal Palace
Though he forced De Gea into an outstanding save, he lacked a cutting edge in front of goal.
Worst: Antony, Manchester United
Had two half chances in the first half — including one lob over Guaita — but struggled to turn effort into end product.
Highlights and notable moments
It was a relatively even and tense affair until Bruno Fernandes put Manchester United ahead just before halftime.
In the 43rd minute, Fernandes found himself with acres of space inside the box, and he coolly finished, placing a shot out of reach for goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
Big goal and big celebration for Manchester United!
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 18, 2023
It appeared the match was destined to end as a gritty 1-0 victory for Manchester United — until the clock ticked past the 90 minutes, that is.
Crystal Palace midfielder Michael Olise smashed a free kick off the crossbar and into the goal, scoring the decisive equaliser to deprive Man United of a 10th straight win. It was such a perfectly executed free kick that there was nothing Man United’s players, including goalkeeper David de Gea, should’ve done differently — it was just an unstoppable strike.
MICHAEL OLISE RESCUES PALACE WITH AN ABSOLUTE 🚀 pic.twitter.com/B88aCQPVN1
— Premier League USA (@PLinUSA) January 18, 2023
After the match: What the managers said
Man United manager Erik ten hag on letting Crystal Palace back into the match: “I think we controlled the game, we scored a goal in the first half. I wouldn’t say it was a top, top performance but it was OK, it was in control. A great save, I think it was the only change Crystal Palace produced, and we had a couple of good opportunities and scored a great goal. Second half was the same. We had control of the game and that I think we had to invest more for the second. If you score 2-0, the game is over. Now you get hammered with an unlucky moment in the end.
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
With the draw, Manchester United were denied a 10th straight win in a row. It would’ve been their first time reaching a winning streak that long since 2008-2009 when Sir Alex Ferguson was manager.
Chris Richards, the 22-year-old American defender who been a bubble player for the U.S. men’s national team, made his first career Premier League start for Crystal Palace.
Bruno Fernandes scored his 40th career Premier League goal and is the 15th player to reach that number with Man United.
Crystal Palace: The Eagles stay home where they will host Newcastle United on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 12:30 p.m. ET in Premier League action.
Manchester United: The Red Devils continue their away spell, visiting Arsenal on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 11:30 a.m. ET in Premier League action. Then, they head away again to face Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 25 in the Carabao Cup (watch live on ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET).