Sheffield United produced one of the biggest upsets of the season as goals from Kean Bryan and Oliver Burke saw the Blades beat Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford, denying Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side a return to the top of the Premier League.
The home side were way off the pace throughout the game and gifted Sheffield United a couple of decent chances even before Bryan’s headed opener from a set-piece on 23 minutes.
Manchester United thought they had an equaliser before the break, only for Anthony Martial’s simple finish to be ruled out for a contentious foul on Aaron Ramsdale in the Sheffield goal. But the equaliser did eventually come midway through the second half when Harry Maguire headed home from a corner.
Solskjaer’s side settled down and looked the likelier to take the win, but it was the visitors who got it, with substitute Oliver Burke given two bites of the cherry inside the box and his second shot taking a deflection off Axel Tuanzebe past De Gea to earn the Blades only their second win over the season.
Talking Point – What was Solskjaer’s plan?
Manchester United were off the pace for much of the evening and the defending was atrocious at times, particularly for Burke's winner. But there was also no obvious sign of a plan to break down a visiting team who were always going to sit deep.
It felt like a case of Solskjaer putting as many of his best attacking players on the pitch as possible and hoping that would be enough, but even the worst team in Premier League history (which is what the Blades’ record had them as prior to kick-off) are capable of defending resolutely enough to cope with such a basic game-plan.
Speaking after the game, Solskjaer said: "That magic was missing, that little bit extra." But if you're relying on magic to unlock Sheffield United then surely there are questions to answer.
The Manchester United manager pointed to the slightly strange foul given against Maguire on Aaron Ramsdale in the Sheffield goal to rule out an equaliser in the first-half, but good chances were few and far between for the home side on a night that their manager will want to forget in a hurry.
'We'll bounce back' - Solskjaer reacts to United's shock defeat to Sheffield United
Man of the Match – Phil Jagielka (Sheffield United)
The veteran centre-back was an absolute rock at the heart of the Blades defence, giving first Marcus Rashford and then Edinson Cavani absolutely nothing to work with at the point of the Manchester United attack.
At times it felt like Jagielka was heading every ball and making every tackle as the 40-cap England international rolled back the years with a display for the ages, and the 38-year-old (yes, 38!) will surely count this as one of the more special nights of his lengthy career.
Man Utd: De Gea 4, Wan-Bissaka 5, Tuanzebe 5, Maguire 6, Telles 5, Matic 6, Pogba 5, Fernandes 6, Greenwood 4, Rashford 6, Martial 4. Subs: Cavani 6, Shaw 6, Van de Beek 6
Sheff Utd: Ramsdale 6, Baldock 7, Basham 7, Jagielka 8, Ampadu 7, Bryan 8, Lundstram 7, Norwood 7, Fleck 8, McGoldrick 8, Sharp 7. Subs: Bogle 6, Burke 7, Brewster 6
23’ GOAL! – Sheffield United take the lead and you can’t say it wasn’t coming! A corner is whipped into a crowded six-yard-box and David de Gea fails to get off the ground as Kean Bryan heads home. The keeper will claim that he was fouled there, but VAR doesn’t overrule and the goal stands. 1-0.
30’ – Martial tucks the ball home after Ramsdale spills a corner under pressure from Maguire, but the whistle had gone and the goal won’t stand. There’s not a vast amount of difference between that contact and the challenge on De Gea, although the key difference is probably that the Sheffield stopper had the ball in his grasp whereas United’s keeper hadn’t got there yet. It still looked very harsh from the officials though.
64’ GOAL! – Harry ‘Slab Head’ Maguire is at it again, glancing home a powerful header to equaliser for Manchester United. It’s 1-1 and Maguire has rescued Manchester United from a tricky spot there.
74’ GOAL! – What on earth were Manchester United doing?! They make a complete mess of clearing a low cross into the box and then fail to shut down Oliver Burke in the box twice in quick succession. He shanks his first shot but takes full advantage with the second, sending a shot past De Gea via a huge deflection off Tuanzebe. 2-1!
Stats and Facts
- Bryan and Burke’s goals were both players’ first in the Premier League.
- All three of Maguire’s Premier League goals from Manchester United have been headers.