Erik Ten Hag on Manchester United and Marcus Rashford's progression
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Manchester United have two players at risk of suspension heading into their Premier League clash against Crystal Palace on Wednesday night. Casemiro and Fred are both on four yellow cards and a fifth against Palace would leave either unavailable to face league leaders Arsenal in a huge showdown this weekend.
The Red Devils are looking to move, at least temporarily, up to second with victory over Patrick Vieira’s Palace at Selhurst Park. United have won nine matches in a row in all competitions and a 10th straight victory would move them six points behind Arsenal having played one game more.
But Erik ten Hag will be wary that two of his key midfielders are on the cusp of a suspension. Premier League rules mean that a one-match ban is unavoidable if players accumulate five yellows in the first 19 games of the season.
United have played 18 times meaning that if Brazil team-mates Casemiro and Fred avoid yellows against Palace, they will not pick up a suspension if they are then booked for the fifth time in the campaign at Arsenal. That is because the count is then reset to 10 bookings.
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If a player picks up 10 yellows before the 33rd match-day of the season, they will be hit with a two-match ban. United have already had Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Dalot and Scott McTominay serve one-match suspensions for amassing five yellows earlier this season.
However, Casemiro has installed himself as arguably United’s most important player and would be a gigantic loss if he was unavailable against frontrunners Arsenal. United are the only team to have beaten the Gunners this year bet a trip to the Emirates – where Arsenal have won seven and drawn one of eight matches – will be their toughest assignment yet this term.
Fresh from beating Manchester City in the derby, United are looking to go to London and underline their title credentials with a statement victory. And doing so would be much harder without the steely presence of Casemiro in midfield.
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While the option of Fred would also be missed even though the Brazilian has only started one league match since mid-October. That start came against City where he helped nullify the reigning champions, meaning he may also be in line to face a dangerous Arsenal.
United have a favourable run of league fixtures after Arsenal which includes a reverse fixture against Palace at Old Trafford, a trip to Leeds United and the visits of Leicester and Brentford. They then face Liverpool at Anfield on March 4.
Ten Hag has however played down title talk after United defeated City, saying: “The fans may dream but we’re not. We have to keep our feet on the ground and then face that our game has a lot to improve. It can’t happen that after half-time we lose so much control of the game, for instance, and then getting down [going behind] is unnecessary.”
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