Casemiro saved Manchester United as the Brazil midfielder scored his first goal for the club in stoppage time on Saturday to salvage a dramatic 1-1 draw against Chelsea.
Jorginho’s penalty in the 87th minute gave Chelsea the lead in Manchester United’s first encounter since Cristiano Ronaldo’s exile. Erik ten Hag’s squad was mere seconds away from losing.
Casemiro, a former Real Madrid player, scored a header that was given by goal-line technology after it crossed the line by millimeters, ensuring that United departed west London on a six-match unbeaten streak.
Ronaldo was absent from the United squad after being sacked by Ten Hag following his reluctance to enter Wednesday’s victory over Tottenham.
Ten Hag’s decision to impose discipline on Ronaldo could be the beginning of the end for the Portuguese forward’s second stint with United.
It would not be a shock if Manchester United and Cristiano Ronaldo split company during the January transfer window, but Ten Hag’s squad seems unfazed by the striker’s latest tantrum.
United were the superior team for lengthy stretches despite Ronaldo’s exclusion, while the visiting fans gathered in one corner of Stamford Bridge did not sing in favor of the 37-year-old.
Fifth-placed United remains one point behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who are undefeated in their last eight matches in all competitions since Graham Potter replaced Thomas Tuchel.
United’s biggest concern was the sight of France center-back Raphael Varane walking off in tears after a World Cup injury scare in the second half.
Varane’s leg twisted awkwardly during an unsuccessful attempt to intercept a pass intended for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, causing him to spend many minutes on the ground.
The 29-year-old was finally able to walk around the field without assistance, but his irritation at the possibility of missing the World Cup, which begins on November 20, was evident as he struck the corner flag.
The vitality of United’s performance against Tottenham was overshadowed by the commotion around Ronaldo’s antics, but they maintained that level at Stamford Bridge.
A flurry of passes sliced through Chelsea’s midfield to produce the opening opportunity for Luke Shaw, whose low shot from the edge of the penalty area went just wide of the far post.
United winger Antony was next to threaten with a left-foot curling shot that caused Kepa Arrizabalaga to make a wonderful save.
Marcus Rashford’s return to form has contributed to Ronaldo’s benching this season.
However, Ronaldo would have undoubtedly produced a greater finish than Rashford did in the first half.
Rashford was left one-on-one with Kepa after a pinpoint ball from Fernandes opened up the Chelsea defense, but a terrible first touch moved him away from the goal, and his effort hit the chest of the Chelsea goalkeeper.
Rashford’s confidence was not shaken by this mishap, as he charged into the Chelsea penalty area and unleashed a powerful shot that Kepa parried away.
Potter replied to Chelsea’s key areas being overrun by substituting center-back Marc Cucurella and introducing midfielder Mateo Kovacic to disrupt United’s rhythm.
After the entrance of Kovacic, Chelsea finally mounted a frightening attack, while Aubameyang almost missed the goal with a shot.
Moments later, Aubameyang failed to capitalize on two half-chances, but United remained unmoved.
Christian Eriksen just missed the target from 25 yards out before Antony squandered a golden opportunity, the winger missing the target after Fernandes sent him racing free on goal.
Trevoh Chalobah’s second-half header from Mason Mount’s cross hit the crossbar.
When Scott McTominay clumsily fouled Armando Broja and Jorginho smoothly tapped past David De Gea, it appeared that Potter’s team had won.
In the fourth minute of stoppage time, though, Casemiro rose highest for a magnificent header that Kepa could only touch into the post, with the ball bouncing across the goal line to ignite frenzied United celebrations.