BSP-01 Man Utd title hopes hit by Sheffield United defeat

138

ZCZC

BSP-01

FBL-ENG-PR-MANUTD

Man Utd title hopes hit by Sheffield United defeat

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Jan 28, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – Rock-bottom Sheffield
United put a huge dent in Manchester United’s Premier League title hopes on
Wednesday, beating Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s off-key side 2-1 at Old Trafford.

United knew they had to respond after Manchester City leapfrogged them at
the summit with a 5-0 hammering of West Brom on Tuesday but they were well
short of their best on a frustrating night.

Kean Bryan gave the visitors a shock first-half lead that former Blades
defender Harry Maguire cancelled out, only for Oliver Burke’s heavily
deflected strike to seal a first away win against Manchester United since
1973.

The result leaves United on 40 points — one behind City — but Pep
Guardiola’s side now have a game in hand and are looking increasingly likely
to win a third title in four seasons.

Solskjaer told BT Sport the “magic was missing” from his side, who slipped
to their first league defeat since November 1, and said the referee had made
two mistakes.

“They defended well, fair play to them but we didn’t have the right ideas
or solutions,” said the Norwegian.

“The first goal is a foul, Billy Sharp runs into David de Gea. At the
other end, no foul for the disallowed goal for us but it’s that kind of
season. Two mistakes by the referee.”

Even in such an unpredictable season, this result stood out as one of the
biggest shocks of the campaign.

Before the match Sheffield United had just five points to show from 19
games — the worst haul in Premier League history — and had not beaten the
Red Devils since 1993.

– Sloppy Man Utd –

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford flashed an early shot narrowly wide
but they were short of ideas against the battling away team.

The Blades broke the deadlock midway through the first half when Bryan
rose to glance home John Fleck’s corner after De Gea failed to punch clear.

Billy Sharp appeared to nudge the Spanish goalkeeper from behind but the
goal was allowed to stand.

Manchester United had the ball in the net after half an hour’s play but
Anthony Martial’s effort did not count because referee Peter Bankes had
already blown his whistle for a foul by Maguire on goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

United lacked urgency as the first period wore on, struggling to get
behind Chris Wilder’s organised back line.

Bruno Fernandes fashioned half a chance for United when he ran beyond the
last line of defence and hooked the ball back but Martial could not get
enough purchase on the header.

The home side tried to step up a gear at the start of the second half but
still lacked sharpness in their passing, with Rashford off the pace.

Mason Greenwood, who scored in United’s FA Cup win against Liverpool on
Sunday, snatched at a chance after a fine through ball from Fernandes.

United were now showing more urgency but David McGoldrick went close to
doubling Sheffield United’s lead with a clever effort with the outside of his
right foot.

Solskjaer’s men were level in the 64th minute when an outswinging corner
from Alex Telles was met with a thumping header by Maguire past the diving
Ramsdale.

Edinson Cavani replaced Greenwood moments later as United looked to turn
the screw.

But Sheffield United were back in front again in the 74th minute when
Manchester United failed to clear and Burke’s strike took a wicked deflection
off Axel Tuanzebe and went in off the underside of the bar.

Solskjaer threw on Luke Shaw and Donny van de Beek as United desperately
sought an equaliser but they had to face the intense frustration of three
dropped points.

“There will be no big inquest,” said Solskjaer. “There have been so many
odd results this season but with the world as it is we have been the most
consistent team. It hit us today.”

Sheffield United now have eight points — still 10 from safety.

BSS/AFP/FI/ 0830 hrs