Brilliant Blades Put Woeful Manchester United To The Sword
Sheffield United have taken advantage of a woeful Manchester United performance to win 2-1 at Old Trafford, keeping hopes of their own survival alive while all but ending the Red Devils title aspirations.
A day after rivals Manchester City ruthlessly ripped West Bromwich Albion apart, United were found wanting in a test of their title credentials.
It was a game to forget for goalkeeper David de Gea, the Spaniard shot stopper culpable in both Sheffield United goals.
The Blades opened the scoring against the run of play in the 23rd minute, Kean Bryan nodding home from a corner after de Gea failed to deal with the cross.
The second goal was scored by Oliver Burke in the 74th minute after some calamitous defending from United’s rearguard.
While the final shot took a wicked deflection off Axel Tuanzebe, who had been poor all game, it was de Gea’s bizarre decision to pass the ball into empty space just outside the box rather than into Row Z that set the scene for Sheffield United to claim all three points.
Keen observers of the Premier League know that winning these games at home against inferior opposition when not firing on all cylinders are what separate the eventual Champions from the rest, and Manchester United definitely lacked the cutting edge needed for such a fixture.
With Sheffield United defending deeply, it was a game tailor-made for Juan Mata, but once again the Spanish midfield maestro was left on the bench, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stubbornly keeping faith in Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.
On current form Martial wouldn’t be in many starting eleven’s, let alone a team making a title run, and Greenwood seems a shadow of the player who lit up the league last season.
Solskjaer is often slow to substitute players, trusting those in the starting eleven to come good, and doesn’t rotate the team despite the heavy schedule of matches.
Now it would seem the all-too-familiar second half of the season slow down is fast approaching.
While not happy with some of the decisions that cost his team, the manager was far from happy with his teams performance in another Old Trafford defeat.
“Disappointing. Well below par, of course, we started okay but then conceded the goal from maybe the first attack, a corner-kick. We had all the possession but when you concede two bad goals it is always going to be difficult. We didn’t create enough. We put pressure on them but we couldn’t penetrate enough in behind them and create big enough chances to score enough goals.”
“We were not lacking inspiration. That magic. That was missing. That little bit extra. There wasn’t the space to run into, they defended well and fair play to them, take nothing away from them. We didn’t have the right ideas or solutions. They weren’t there. The performance-level wasn’t there, the tempo wasn’t there, the quality wasn’t there. There were spaces we didn’t use and chances we could have made more of in the first half but, when you’re 1-0 down, you’re always chasing the game. They dropped deep and defended really well. I have to be fair enough to say they defended very well and we didn’t have the solutions to open them up.”
Manchester United defender Harry Maguire was assessed to have fouled Sheffield United keeper Aaron Ramsdale in the lead up to a chalked-off Anthony Martial equaliser in a decision that left Solskjaer bemused.
“It’s a foul on David [De Gea] if you look at it closely. I didn’t see it live but, when you see the TV pictures, Billy Sharp has been around the block and just turns round and pushes David enough so he can’t get up. Unfortunately, that’s football and how it is but then he disallows our goal [by Anthony Martial] and it’s another bad decision. That just sums up our night, it wasn’t to be. It is this kind of season, inconsistencies. It is going to be unpredictable but that is two mistakes by the referee.”
If United hope to keep pressure on City and stay ahead of the chasing pack, they will need to pull themselves together quickly, ahead of an away game at Arsenal this weekend.
“No big inquest. Of course we are disappointed. We have seen so many results this season being out of character and today, yes we’re surprised, but with the world as it is we have been very consistent. We have been the most consistent team the last few months and it just hit us today. We dust off the sad feeling and go again. We’ll get over it tonight and start again tomorrow. Saturday it’s Arsenal and a big performance is needed as they’re in good form, good shape and have done well against us before. We know we have to lift ourselves.
“I just think it’s this kind of season, we’ve been terrific, our consistency has been absolutely top and we’ve won narrow games like this one so many times. When it doesn’t happen today, we’re disappointed of course we are because we know we can play better. But I don’t have time for a big, long inquest. We need to get over it and go again,” concluded the manager.
Ole’s been at the wheel for the best Manchester united run in the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, he will be hoping the wheels aren’t about to come off on what was shaping up to be a promising season.