Casemiro rescued Manchester United as the Brazil midfielder grabbed his first goal for the club in stoppage-time to salvage a dramatic 1-1 draw at Chelsea on Saturday.
Erik ten Hag’s side was seconds away from defeat after Jorginho’s 87th minute penalty put Chelsea ahead in United’s first match since Cristiano Ronaldo was sent into exile.
But former Real Madrid star Casemiro ensured United left west London on a six-match unbeaten run as he netted with a header that was awarded by goal-line technology after crossing the line by millimetres.
Ronaldo was missing from the United squad after being dropped by Ten Hag after his refusal to come on as a substitute in Wednesday’s win over Tottenham.
Ten Hag’s decision to lay down the law to Ronaldo could signal the beginning of the end for the Portugal attacker in his second spell with United.
It would be no surprise if United and Ronaldo parted ways in the January transfer window, but Ten Hag’s men did not appear troubled by the striker’s latest petulant outburst.
With Ronaldo banished, United was still the stronger side for long periods, while there were no chants in support of the 37-year-old from the visiting fans packed into one corner of Stamford Bridge.
Fifth placed United remains one point behind fourth placed Chelsea, which is unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions since Graham Potter replaced the sacked Thomas Tuchel.
The only concern for United was the sight of France centre-back Raphael Varane limping off in tears in the second half after a World Cup injury scare.
Varane’s leg twisted awkwardly as he stretched in a failed attempt to intercept a pass towards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, leaving him crumpled in a heap on the pitch for several minutes.
The 29-year-old was eventually able to walk around the pitch unaided, but his angst at potentially missing the World Cup, which starts on November 20, was clear as he punched the corner flag in frustration.