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Sheffield United stun woeful Man Utd to give title challengers sharp reality check

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had been wary of suggesting something significant was taking shape at Manchester United in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s FA Cup win against Liverpool and, after this, it is easy to see why.

Solskjaer wanted to see whether his players could rouse themselves mentally for the visit of Sheffield United only three days after the euphoric high of victory against the old enemy but the answer was a resounding no as his side’s unbeaten 13-match run in the Premier League came to shuddering halt against the division’s whipping boys.

This was only Sheffield United’s second win of a wretched season and, while they will not be giving up hope of the most miraculous of escapes just yet – and certainly not after this – there was no doubting who were the biggest victors on the night.

Manchester City had sent out a clear statement of intent 24 hours earlier with a 5-0 thumping of another struggler, West Bromwich Albion, to go top and, at the first sign of their rivals applying some pressure, Solskjaer’s side crumbled. All is not lost, of course, but this was not a result that pointed to Manchester United sustaining a title challenge well into April or May and it is hard to believe Sheffield United having this much joy against City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

There may have been more than a hint of controversy to Sheffield United’s opening goal, which happened to be scored by a City old boy in Kean Bryan, with Billy Sharp fortunate not to be penalised for a foul on David De Gea.

But United’s lethargy on the night was typified by their risible defending for Sheffield United’s second goal after Harry Maguire’s headed equaliser had, for all of 10 minutes at least, given the hosts hope of another comeback.

Manchester United vs Sheffield United. FA Premier League. Picture By Bradley Ormesher /NMC Pool. Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek.

Anthony Martial had an especially poor night

Credit:
Bradley Ormesher /Times Newspapers Ltd 

It began with the anaemic Anthony Martial – whose inclusion over Edinson Cavani was a surprise and looked an increasingly poor decision the longer the night went on – losing the ball and ambling back as Sheffield United hit on the break. But the lack of urgency was shared by team-mates and Chris Wilder, when he watches it back, will not believe the time and space his players were afforded. Nemanja Matic and Martial made no attempt to get out to the ball, both criminally standing off, while both De Gea and Tuanzebe had opportunities to clear their lines and failed to do so miserably. The comedy of errors culminated in John Lundstram rolling a pass into the unmarked Burke 12 yards out. Alex Telles, who had been ball watching and was completely unaware of Burke’s position, then made a pitiful attempt to close down the space only for the Sheffield United substitute’s shot to deflect in off Tuanzebe. 

“I think the whole team will probably get criticism tonight and myself so I don’t think Anthony is exempt from that,” Solskjaer said. “We should all be criticised because we didn’t perform.

“We couldn’t found a solution to their very compact block and good defence. We didn’t have that extra creativity, imagination, X factor. We didn’t pass with enough quality, we didn’t get enough rhythm to our passing, we didn’t make enough runs in behind. The boys have been absolutely terrific for the last few months but tonight we did not hit those levels and when you don’t in the Premier League you don’t get results.”

What Manchester United lacked in urgency, hunger and aggression, Phil Jagielka brought by the bucketload to Sheffield United’s defence. He will have been disappointed to be beaten in the air by Maguire from Telles’s corner for Manchester United’s goal but he embodied the spirit, concentration and determination showed by the visitors. This was only his second outing since coming on as a substitute against Solskjaer’s team at Bramall Lane last month, when he was given the runaround by Marcus Rashford, which probably explained his dad’s reaction when told he was starting on Wednesday night. “The first person I told was my dad and he laughed,” Jagielka said, but he will have been very proud of what his son delivered. 

Harry Maguire looks dejected

It was a chastening night for Manchester United against a side who seem doomed to relegation

Credit:
Laurence Griffiths/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

Once Sheffield United got their noses in front, Jagielka was determined they were going to do everything possible to hold on to that lead. It was highly contentious goal, though.

Sharp – who had earlier been denied by a good De Gea save when put through one-on-one – shoved himself into De Gea as the Spaniard came out in a bid to meet John Fleck’s corner but the infringement went unpunished by referee Peter Bankes and the VAR David Cootes as Bryan glanced home a header after beating Tuanzebe to the ball. With Eric Bailly ruled out late through injury and Victor Lindelof on the bench, Tuanzebe was given a rare start and his rustiness showed. Still, the goal should not have stood and Solskjaer’s sense of injustice will only have deepened when Manchester United subsequently had a goal of their own ruled out when Maguire was penalised for a challenge on Aaron Ramsdale that seemed much less of a foul. Ramsdale was rather fortunate to win a free-kick after dropping the ball as Maguire jostled for it from a corner. Martial stabbed home but Bankes had already blown his whistle. 

Manchester United had chances before Maguire turned home Telles’s corner but there was a marked absence of dynamism to their forward play and, just as it was a surprise Cavani was not introduced sooner, so it was a shock to see Mason Greenwood sacrificed instead of the abysmal Martial, who was nursing a sore shoulder after being knocked to the ground early on by Jagielka and never showed any appetite for the physical battle that ensued. 

Manchester United will have to be so much better than this against Arsenal at the weekend if they are not to come unstuck again.

10:11PM

FULL TIME: Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 2

Well, well, well. That is that. Sheffield United win only their second game of the season against a team who had not lost since November 1 and were supposed to be challengers for the title. Questions over that now, though I don’t think they had ever been fully convincing throughout the season. Still, that is a shocking performance from them and they’ve lost to a team who had five points from 19 games before this evening. 

10:08PM

90+2 mins – Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 2                

Wouldn’t rate any of Man Utd’s players more than 5/10 this evening. Let us be honest, even dropped points here would have been a poor, poor result. A loss… well, it’s only a point difference but seems like several levels worse. 

10:06PM

90 mins – Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 2               

Four minutes of added time. Would say this is more likely to be 3-1 than 2-2. 

10:05PM

88 mins – Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 2              

James Ducker can’t find the words for the standard of defending for Burke’s goal. 

I‘ll have a go: Dreadful. Atrocious. Embarrassing. Amateurish. Lethargic. Useless. Woeful. I could go on… 

10:02PM

85 mins – Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 2             

Shaw with a cross in, Jagielka heads away for a corner. It is taken short and Fernandes has a cross which is poor. Sums up the evening, really. 

10:00PM

Watch: Sheffield United take the lead

9:58PM

82 mins – Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 2            

Pogba finds Martial in the box, he nods it back to Cavani who volleys wildly over. He couldn’t get over and that was a bad slice. A couple of changes for United as Van De Beek and Luke Shaw come on for Tuanzebe and Telles. 

9:55PM

79 mins – Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 2           

Don’t think Man United deserve to be losing this but you cannot make a strong argument that they deserve much more than a draw. It has been largely insipid stuff, without any quality in the final third. Sheffield United have made it difficult for them, though, credit to them. 

9:53PM

76 mins – Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 2          

That was a worrying moment for Ramsdale there. Telles has a shot that is wildly deflected, looks like it’s dipping… but not enough to go in, though Ramsdale did try and save it. The corner ends with Pogba heading wide. Not a great chance but perhaps should have done better. 

9:51PM

GOAAAAAAAL! SHEFFIELD UNITED ARE IN FRONT AGAIN

It’s a horribly deflected goal but Man Utd didn’t sort themselves out in defence in time, a bit slow to react. It was just a mess, in short. They had many opportunities to clear the danger or at least snuff it out and did not take it. Poor. Oliver Burke shoots from 14 yards out and it flies off Tuanzebe’s thigh and off the bar and into the back of the net. What have the home side got now?

Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 2

9:45PM

69 mins – Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 1                   

Billy Sharp off for Oliver Burke for the visitors. 20 minutes or so of normal time. 

9:44PM

68 mins – Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 1                  

Ampadu on his own, nobody in front of him, chasing defenders and midfielders around him as he bears down on goal. 22 yards out… Fernandes makes a fine tackle to stop him before he could get a shot away. 

9:42PM

65 mins – Man Utd 1 Sheffield United 1                 

Cavani is on now with 25 minutes remaining. Greenwood makes way for him. Not a great game from the youngster. 

9:40PM

GOAAAAAAAAAAL! MAN UTD ARE LEVEL!

Telles takes the corner, Maguire is free, runs in to meet the outswinging ball and he nods it into the corner to level the game! Clinical. He is often wasteful with those chances but not this time. A goal against his former club and childhood and hometown team. 

 Harry Maguire of Manchester United scores their side's first goal whilst under pressure from Jack O'Connell of Sheffield United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Sheffield United 


Credit:
Getty Images Europe 

Man United 1 Sheffield United 1

9:39PM

63 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1                

It is Fernandes, it looks well targeted but he can’t beat the wall and it’s glanced behind for a corner. 

9:38PM

62 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1               

Another free kick for Man Utd, this time a bit closer as Fernandes is fouled. This is more within his range. More like 22 yards and on the left side of the D. 

9:37PM

61 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1              

Rashford takes, hits it well, it dips but Ramsdale gets down low and clings onto it for deal life. An easy save but those can easily spill out and back into play. 

9:36PM

59 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1             

It’s better from Man Utd here but not by a great deal. They need something a bit different. Time for Cavani soon, surely? A free kick 30 yards out as Martial is fouled by Jagielka. Clumsy challenge. One for Fernandes? Perhaps a bit far. Pogba? Rashford?

9:33PM

56 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1            

McGoldrick so close! He gets space on the right corner of the box, tries to guide the ball to the top corner with the outside of his right boot and it’s not too far away… 

He gets another chance as he beats the United defence and is in with just De Gea to beat… blasts over, but it was offside. By miles. Flagged stayed down until the play was over, as it tends to do these days. 

9:31PM

54 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1           

A bit more fluency and direction now. Rashford, Martial, Fernandes all link up well before the Portuguese overhits his pass out to Telles on the right and Sheffield United get a throw. 

Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United in action during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Sheffield United


Credit:
Tim Keeton/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

9:29PM

52 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1          

Double change for Man Utd? Cavani and McTominay? Plenty of candidates to be hooked off. Rashford poor. Martial even worse. Pogba struggling for influence though not without effort. Matic anonymous and without much use. 

9:28PM

50 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1         

Kind of more of the same from the men in red so far this half. Dropping points here would be troubling. Losing even more so. Wan Bissaka has a shot deflected behind for another corner. A bit more directness so far. Corner is cleared. 

9:25PM

48 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1        

Mata and McTominay warming up. Could have made the case for many Man Utd players being dragged off in fairness. 

Chance for Greenwood! Fernandes plays him in on the right of the box, a couple of touches, he tries to slide it in to the far corner but doesn’t connect and drags it wide. Was never going in. 

9:21PM

Kick off! Second half under way

Man Utd need to improve. A lot. 

9:16PM

More from Ducker on United’s disallowed “goal” and Sheffield United’s actual goal

9:11PM

Telegraph Sport’s James Ducker ponders a change for the hosts

9:05PM

HALF TIME: Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1

Norwood’s free kick is poor. Low and easily cleared at the first chance by the home defence. Man Utd’s midfield has been ineffective in the extreme here. Missing McTominay? I’m not sure…

9:04PM

45+2 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1         

Three minutes of added time. Tuanzebe dives in on Fleck bursting forward and that is a definite booking. Silly. Dangerous position for a free kick now. Fleck is receiving treatment now, not sure if he fell slightly awkwardly, it did not look like a big impact tackle but he was felled at speed. Ahhh, maybe knee-to-knee there. 

9:00PM

44 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1        

No doubt, this has been a really poor half from Man Utd. By far the majority of the ball but so few chances. And creativity has been lacking. Sheffield United have stuck to their task well but after going 1-0 were always going to pack the defence. Imagine if they hung on. What a three points that would be. I don’t think they should be too worried on current form, though…

8:58PM

41 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1       

Man Utd are nearly in! But not quite. A bit more direct and good work from Fernandes but it just cannot be directed goalwards. 

8:56PM

39 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1      

Just the one shot on target for Man Utd and that says it all. John Lundstram gets a booking for shirt pulling, holding Rashford back and stopping him from breaking forward. I’d make that offence a 10-minute sin bin. For certain. Yellow always feels just a little too light. 

8:53PM

36 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1     

An awful lot of midfield sideways passing from Man Utd in this first half. And not a great deal more. Martial fouls Jagielka and that adds to the frustration for the home team. 

8:49PM

33 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1    

Just lacking fluency in the final third are Solskjaer’s men. Fernandes very isolated at the moment, without much of the ball. Pogba, too. A lot of the play has been down the flanks and that has not brought any joy. 

8:46PM

31 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1   

It’s another Man Utd corner, Maguire gets a head on it but it loops straight up. Maguire challenges Ramsdale again, the ball falls to Martial who tucks it away… but the flag is up straight away for a foul on Ramsdale by the Man Utd captain. 

8:45PM

29 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1  

Better from Man Utd. Wan Bissaka funds Greenwood 15 yards out on the right, his shot is deflected for a corner. Telles takes, Maguire forward. The corner is cleared easily at the near post. 

8:43PM

27 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1 

Greenwood makes room from 20 yards out, turns and shoots with his left but it’s straight at Ramsdale. Much more required from the home team here. 

8:41PM

25 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 1

Would not necessarily say it has been ponderous from Man Utd but there just hasn’t been any end product in the final third. 

8:40PM

GOAAAAAAL! SHEFFIELD UNITED LEAD!

McGoldrick wins a corner. The ball is swung in from the right, David De Gea attempts a punch but is nudged in the back by Billy Sharp as Kean Bryan nods in from six yards out! In off the far post. De Gea not happy with that…

Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0

8:35PM

19 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 0       

Man United not really creating many openings at the moment, despite the sharp passing elsewhere. It’s all coming to nothing, Plenty of time in the game for that, though. 

8:33PM

16 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 0      

First chance for Sheffield United now! Sharp finds himself through, bearing down on goal. He gets a shot away from 12 yards or so but De Gea goes down with his feet and saves. That was a proper chance. United nearly have a chance of their own as Greenwood is through but is shepherded away from danger. 

8:30PM

13 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 0     

Here’s the pattern of play at the moment. United get the ball, they pass it quickly in the middle of the park, but struggle to break through and start a proper attack. Mata fouls Fleck in the centre circle, which gives the visitors some relief. 

8:28PM

10 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 0    

Fair to say Sheffield United have set up… defensively.  First proper chance of the game, Rashford switches the play to Greenwood, who then shifts it to Wan Bissaka. He crosses it to Rashford who has a snap shot but fires wide of the keeper’s right. Better, though. 

8:24PM

7 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 0   

The visitors on the back foot for the first six or seven minutes. Nothing of real quality from Man Utd, though. That is until Pogba finds Fernandes with a fine ball over the top, lurking free on the edge of the box. He seems caught in two minds as to whether to shoot, trap or pass and nothing comes of it. 

8:22PM

5 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 0  

Excellent play and fight from Pogba, who pulls himself up from near the ground to keep possession and charge through the midfield. He picks the ball up again to fed Telles who links up with Martial on the left. Good play but Sheffield United see out the danger. 

8:20PM

4 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 0 

Doesn’t look too serious for Martial but it does look painful still. He’s marched off to the touchline for further treatment. He’s soon back onto the field of play. 

8:19PM

2 mins – Man Utd 0 Sheffield United 0

Some excellent, neat, quick passing at the back from the United defence. But it makes you a little nervous. Jagielka goes in Martial and fouls him and I think he’s hurt himself falling there. Could it be a dislocated shoulder or injured collarbone? He looks in more than a touch of pain and he’s not moved a great deal. 

8:17PM

Kick off!

If Sheffield United could get anything here it would be a shock. 

8:15PM

I’ve heard it all now

On BT Sport, Chris Sutton just called Bruno Fernandes “the little dictator”. I mean, I know what he’s getting at. But that is not the way to express it. 

8:13PM

We’re nearly ready to get going

Predictions? Comfortable 2-0 for Man Utd for me, Clive. 

8:06PM

Solsjkaer on facing rock bottom Sheff Utd

We’ve played them three times. We had a good game here in June but the other games have been tight. They’re on an unfortunate run but they lose by the odd goal. Not many teams run away with it.

7:55PM

Current Premier League table

Manchester United can go top with three points. Sheffield United can stay bottom with three points.  

7:36PM

(Sheffield) United’s team

7:35PM

(Manchester) United’s line-up tonight

5:21PM

Good evening

Back again for more football. It’s a feast of… no, I’m not going to say it. But there the games are coming thick and fast this evening. In fact all season, really. This time it looks like a bit of a mismatch as title-challengers (yes, really – at least at this stage) Manchester United take on the club at the very bottom of the pile, the club with just one win from their 19 games so far. And only two draws in that time, too. Yes, Sheffield United look doomed to relegation, as they have done for quite some time. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not quite worked wonders for United, but you cannot argue with a significant upturn in results and their position in the table, even though there are still a fair few areas that need work. Their form overall is excellent, having only lost two of their last 14 games in all competitions. Their league form is even more impressive  – since they lost to Arsenal on November 1, they are unbeaten, winning a total of 30 points from a possible 36 in that time, or 2.5 a game. 

An FA Cup win over Liverpool at the weekend was obviously a significant moment – coming a week on from a 0-0 draw in the league – and one which underlined the malaise the defending champions find themselves in. It would be easy to get carried away but it is impossible to deny the progress that United have made this season. Bruno Fernandes has again been leading from the front, with excellent performances from Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford and a few others like Luke Shaw, too. 

As for Chris Wilder’s side? It’s grim, really. Even grimmer when you consider they would have entered this season with hopes of at least staying up following an excellent season last time. The chances of them getting anything here are slim but this is just 90 minutes and it has been a strange old season. 

Game kicks off at 8.15pm GMT and we’ll be back with the team news very shortly. 

Original Source

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