Manchester United awful, then brilliant, then denied by Sheffield United's Oli McBurnie in 90th minute

Jason Burt
The Telegraph
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts after the match - REUTERS
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts after the match - REUTERS

In the bear pit of Bramall Lane this was a raw, raucous contest as Manchester United appeared to receive a mauling, then mounted a stunning comeback only for Sheffield United to show admirable reserves of determination to salvage a point. It was the least they deserved.

In the stands even Sir Alex Ferguson laughed when Manchester United, who for 70 minutes had been taken apart, scored their third goal to take an unlikely lead but surely he would not deny Sheffield United were worthy of a point.

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So much store is being put in the young players by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and here his faith was repaid with three goals in an intense seven minute burst: the first by 17-year-old Brandon Williams, the second by 18-year-old Mason Greenwood before Marcus Rashford, still just 22, appeared to claim the most unlikely of winners as Daniel James burst on the scene also. That was before Oli McBurnie’s 90th minute strike.

What a response from both sides. Manchester United had been woeful; Sheffield United had been wonderful. Solskjaer has to take credit for his tactical changes, and not least abandoning his three-man defence, but it was tough on Chris Wilder’s side who should have scored more than twice before their opponents even had a glimmer of hope. But at least they did not lose.

For most of the game it was so bad from Manchester United that it had to raise the question, again, as to whether Solskjaer is cut out to be their manager. His tactics, his set-up, his selection and his motivation of these players all have to be interrogated. On the touchline he just looked incapable of altering things. But then he did just that.

<span>McBurnie scores - VAR ruled it okay and the goal stood</span> <span>Credit: Sky Sports </span>
McBurnie scores - VAR ruled it okay and the goal stood Credit: Sky Sports

Somehow Manchester United went in only a goal down at half-time. It could have been two, three for Sheffield United who had harried and hassled their opponents and not least in scoring John Fleck’s goal.

It was more than that, though. Tactically they were better set-up. They were far more motivated, more committed and more cohesive. Manchester United lacked belief and leadership and organisation and all the more principles that define a team. And could not just be because Scott McTominay was not playing.

There was also the curious decision to include Phil Jones for his first Premier League start since the final day of last season: the dismal loss to relegation Cardiff City. The defender was soon trending on Twitter which was never going to be a good thing as he spent more time on his backside than standing up.

Inevitably Jones was dumped to the turf as he was out-muscled by Lys Mousset, despite having a clear advantage on the striker, as they chased down a long ball forward. Jones panicked, Mousset gained possession and ran into the penalty area before cutting the ball back for John Lundstram whose shot was parried by David De Gea with his right leg only for the rebound to strike the onrushing Fleck and fly into the net.

The fact that Lundstram and Fleck had both broken so quickly from midfield to bear down on De Gea was another sign of Sheffield United’s greater desire.

<span>Physical comedian Phil Jones was at it again</span> <span>Credit: Alex Dodd - CameraSport </span>
Physical comedian Phil Jones was at it again Credit: Alex Dodd - CameraSport

The roar rang around the stadium and the goal was the least Sheffield United deserved. De Gea had already denied them with a superb double save as he pushed away Lundstram’s volley and then reacted brilliantly to instinctively stick out his right hand and divert David McGoldrick’s point-blank header.

There was no Dean Henderson in goal for Sheffield United – he is on a season-long loan from Manchester United – but it was not until the half hour that his under-study

Simon Moore had a meaningful touch as he easily saved Anthony Martial’s low shot. Manchester United’s first-half performance was summed up when they won a corner, took too long to deliver the ball into the area only for Fred to miscue a cross forcing Harry Maguire to try and chase it down before it went out for a throw-in.

Inevitably it sparked a chorus of “sacked in the morning” directed at Solskjaer by the home fans.

Jones was hooked at half-time. It would be a surprise to see him play for Manchester United again. He had been that poor. Brutally the announcement of the change, with Jesse Lingard coming on and a change of formation, was greeted with a ripple of laughs.

That was soon replaced by more roars as Sheffield United scored again with another smartly worked goal with the outstanding Fleck heavily involved as he used McGoldrick’s run to divert attention and play an excellent reverse pass to Mousset. He strode on and beat De Gea from outside the area with a precise, low curling shot beyond the goalkeeper’s grasp.

<span>Manchester United's Mason Greenwood showed a great reading of the game to be in the perfect place as the cross came in </span> <span>Credit: Reuters </span>
Manchester United's Mason Greenwood showed a great reading of the game to be in the perfect place as the cross came in Credit: Reuters

Surely that was it? It seemed so but then the most unlikely of comebacks happened. James was the catalyst. It was his cross that Chris Basham headed the ball out but only as far as Williams who struck a fierce first-time shot into the corner of the net. It was Williams’ first goal and suddenly there was hope for Manchester United where previously there had been none.

Incredibly they struck again with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford combining for the latter to angle a cross that was met inside the six-yard area by substitute Mason Greenwood, who had only just come on, to slide it and beat Moore. Manchester United were transformed and incredibly struck again when James broke into the area and pulled the ball back to Rashford who had cleverly peeled away to beat Moore with a side-foot shot.

It seemed over but Sheffield United showed deep reserves of resilience to salvage a point. The clock was on 90 minutes when substitute Callum Robinson lifted the ball across the penalty area to his fellow replacement McBurnie who juggled with it before firing low past De Gea. There was a long VAR check with claims that McBurnie had handled the ball before shooting but eventually the goal was allowed by referee Andre Marriner.

6:26PM

Reaction and report coming up

Really enjoyable match. Both sides can be proud of their fighting qualities, both will feel relieved but also robbed. Mixed emotions, although I imagine for Solskjaer there will also be annoyance that the VAR didn't go their way late on. All things considered, I think there was not enough evidence to overturn the decision of goal, and that's good enough for me.

Here's that man Jason Burt with the match report.

6:24PM

Final whistle: Sheffield United 3 Manchester United 3

What a match. hugely enjoyable. If you had "Man United absolutely toilet for 70 minutes, then score three in seven minutes, before being pegged back in injury time by a debatable VAR call," then please get in touch with the lottery numbers....

6:23PM

90+ mins: Sheffield United 3 Manchester United 3                         

Deep into Fergie Time now, 95 and a bit on the clock, and it is Manchester United who are driving forward. The four added minutes have grown into nearly six because Sir Alex is here and he has had a word of the delay for VAR. But finally ref has hand enough. That's it. Peep peep.

6:21PM

90+ mins: Sheffield United 3 Manchester United 3                        

They're into the fourth minute of added time, Sheff Utd come, but cannot fashion and opening.

6:16PM

GOAL! Sheffield United 3 Manchester United 3 (McBurnie 90)

But VAR VAR VAR is going to have its say. Handball? Played across to Oli McBurnie who.... has handled it? Maybe? He controlled it, the ball popped up, it sort of rolls up his right arm. It has either hit his hand or his shoulder depending on your point of view. The ball drops, he slots it home. But... VAR! What will the ruling be?

<span>McBurnie scores - VAR?</span> <span>Credit: Sky </span>
McBurnie scores - VAR? Credit: Sky

Oooof. Good luck deciding that one. The goal stands! Scenes.

Callum Robinson, on as a sub, is the player who did fine work down the flank to deliver the cross.

6:15PM

88 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 3                       

Sheff U have a corner. Nothing doing. Norwood delivers, O’Connell heads it well wide.

6:12PM

83 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 3                      

Martial is coming off. Tuanzebe comes on.

Martial, with the yoot Greenwood, James and Rashford have totally battered the Blades here. What a turnaround. Williams too obvs.

6:08PM

81 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 3                     

Man U come again. They're ripping the hosts apart right now. Lingard and James again. Shot over.

6:08PM

80 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 3                    

McGoldrick, tired, had to go off; and Lys M went off injured. Sheffield United have totally wilted since those subs.

6:06PM

GOAL! Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 3 (Rashford 79) 

Sensational comeback! Oh my goodness. Man United have absolutely turne dit on here. James down the left, into Martial, who sends it back to James. James crosses, and there is Rashford to sweep the ball home. Wow. What a comeback. United's front three have magicked up three in seven minutes!

6:05PM

77 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 2

Sharp replaces McGoldrick.

6:04PM

GOAL! Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 2 (Greenwood 76)

Rashford has not done much today, but he has woken up now. He's on the corner of the box and he's played an absolute peach of a ball into the box. Greenwood, perfectly placed, only has to tap it in. Lovely from Rashford - and Ole's young-uns are getting him back in this!

6:00PM

74 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 1                    

Greenwood replaces Pereira. More youth for United.

6:00PM

GOAL! Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 1 (Williams 72)

They're back in it! Against the run of play. James down the right with some nice old fashioned wing play, stands the cross up. Sheffield United head it clear but it falls for Williams. He shows superb technique to strike that ball on the half volley with a crisp, thrilling economy of effort, and perfect placement. No chance for the keeper. Ole's boys have a lifeline! 

5:53PM

65 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 0                     

Shame. Mousset, the hero of the hour, has got injured. He is limping off. Hamstring. Oli McBurnie comes on.

Oh, Antony Martial - remember him? has had a shot.

5:48PM

60  mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 0                    

Wan-Bissaka fouls McGoldrick, and is booked for it.

5:48PM

59 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 0                   

James down the right for Man United, a cross. Oh! Something for debutant keeper Moore to do. He's had the most stress-free afternoon so far.

5:47PM

57 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 0                  

Baldock enjoying some good forays down that flank.

5:46PM

56 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 0                 

Harry Maguire (!?) is in advanced central midfield, pulling a shot well wide.

5:45PM

55 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 0                

Bramall Lane is going bananas. 

5:44PM

53 mins: Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 0               

John Fleck is was who played that pass, he is having an excellent match.

5:39PM

GOAAALOLLOL! Sheffield United 2 Man United 0 (Mousset 52)

It's two! Oh that's a belter and it could simply not be funnier. Man United's Pereira gives it away, a lovely pass from the left wing frees Mousset, who cuts in, drives towards the goal and places the ball hard, brilliantly, in the corer. Goal!

5:34PM

48 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0               

Rashford again, receiving it from Williams. Shapes, shifts, fires over under pressure.

5:33PM

47 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0              

MUFC look a bit more like it. Good break this, Rashford down the left at pace, well marshalled and ultimately stopped by Jags. 

5:32PM

46 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0             

Oof. Phil Jones gets the hook, Jesse Lingard comes on.

Presumably not to play as a third centre half but hey he couldn't be any worse.

5:29PM

Players back out shortly

Not sure the three at the back has worked for United. Talking of threes, their front trio have been a waste of the bus fare.

5:17PM

Half time: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0

Well that was very enjoyable. De Gea has kept struggling Man United in it, they're getting a bit of a seeing to from Sheffield United. What can manager Ole GS do at half time? I have absolutely no idea but, more importantly, nor does Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

5:12PM

42 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0             

Fleck and Stevens link well but a fine tackle from Wanners-Bissakers shuts down the move.

5:11PM

41 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0            

Pereira with some good tidying up, and a ball forward to James. Man U just starting to get a bit of a handle on the situation in the last minute or two.

5:09PM

39 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0           

There's wee Ole, looking more than ever like a boy who has lost his mum in the supermarket, standing on the touchline, being ineffectual.

5:07PM

35 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0          

Sheffield United - that's Sheffield United - play a cute little series of triangle passes before Baldock swings in a dangerous cross. That is beaten out, then another cross comes in, cleared at the expense of a corner.

"Sheffield United are toying with Man United," says Gurreh Neville, who must be hoping that this is all some sort of anxiety dream and that he'll wake up soon in his bunk bed with Philip snoring gently above and he'll pull the Sir Alex Ferguson duvet cover over his head and it'll all be back to normal.

5:02PM

31 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0         

But back to the main event today, which is Sheffield United giving Man United a really torrid time of it. McG has a shot.

I will never tire of Man United being useless, I swear to God. SO funny.

5:01PM

29 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0        

Tony Martial has had a shot but it's easy peasy for the keeper Moore.

4:55PM

25 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0       

Man United's Martial and James, and to a lesser extent Rashford, have been totally anonymous. Might as well be not on the pitch. Or at least getting back to defend.

4:54PM

24 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0      

Sheffield are having a tremendous day. McGoldrick is allowed to have a gallop, and lets rip with a shot. Straight at DDG.

4:52PM

22 mins: Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0     

Phil Jones was beasted there, and he is rattled! He has just hauled down Fleck and given away a freekick in a dangerous area. Fleck whips a good ball in, Rashford heads it behind. Man United are under the cosh.

4:50PM

GOAL! Sheffield United 1 Manchester United 0 (Fleck 18)

The Blades are one nil up, and they deserve it! It's a ball down the right hand channel. Mousset is earning his money today, he battles for it with Phil Jones and sends him to the floor. he crosses, Lundstram applies what he thinks is the finish but De Gea makes another excellent stop. De Gea's luck is out this time, though: it's right into the path of Fleck, who gets enough on the ball to force it over the line. The hosts have the lead, and Man U cannot say that it hasn't been coming.

Mark Lawrenson on the BBC: "I think that's really worrying that VAR has not picked up on the fact that Phil Jones was bundled over. Is that not a foul? I think so."

4:46PM

15 mins: Sheffield United 0 Manchester United 0    

Mousset pins back his ears and runs at the United defence. Jones and Maguire sandwich him, and down he goes. You wouldn't be astonished to see a freekick there but not today. It was right on the edge of the box as well.

4:41PM

10 mins: Sheffield United 0 Manchester United 0   

De Gea with a brilliant double save! First he reacts well to get down low and get a firm hand on a hard low shot, and then reacts magnificently to claw away a header from point blank range.

4:38PM

7 mins: Sheffield United 0 Manchester United 0  

Maguire steps out of defence commandingly and distributes to Rashford, but he loses the ball.

A quiet game so far.

4:36PM

Coming back, the snood

<span>snood!</span> <span>Credit: Action Images via Reuters </span>
snood! Credit: Action Images via Reuters
<span>snood!</span> <span>Credit: Action Images via Reuters </span>
snood! Credit: Action Images via Reuters

4:33PM

2 mins: Sheffield United 0 Manchester United 0 

Fred has had a nibble at Mousset. Foul.

Now an early corner for Sheff U, one of their strengths, but the delivery here is v bad.

Sian Massey-Ellis is one of the linos.

4:31PM

1 mins: Sheffield United 0 Manchester United 0

Man United, in black, have the ball and hit it diagonally forward, but that's soon with the keeper Moore, who will enjoy and early touch.

4:30PM

Manchester United

<span>Credit: Sky Sports </span>
Credit: Sky Sports

4:29PM

Sheffield United

<span>Credit: Sky Sports </span>
Credit: Sky Sports

Phil Jags the experienced man at the back, Moore in nets is making his dayboo.

4:28PM

Players are lining up

for some handshakes and hoopla, Maguire with warn greetings for a few. Dean Henderson, the Sheff United number one, is out because he's a Man United loanee. 

Judging from the teamsheets, both managers are going to use a back three.

4:17PM

Harry Maguire

"We have a lot of ability in our team and we need to perform." Harry of course started his career here at Sheffield United and was a boyhood fan of that club.

4:16PM

Ole GS speaks

"When I first came in we had a fantastic run away from home but of late for whatever reason we have not. We know about Sheffield United and their set plays, this is not an easy ground if you don't get a good start."

<span>Manchester United have not played at Bramall Lane for 13 years</span> <span>Credit: GETTY </span>
Manchester United have not played at Bramall Lane for 13 years Credit: GETTY

4:15PM

Players are out warming up

Some of Man United's more sensitive sausages look a bit cold and cowed.

3:50PM

Right then

This is a great spot.

Simon Moore represents the Isle of Wight, who compete in the Island Games against the likes of Shetland, Sark and Rhodes. Bet there's some lovely grounds.

3:32PM

Here are the teams

Sheff Utd: Moore, Basham, Jagielka, O'Connell, Baldock,  Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens, McGoldrick, Mousset. Subs:  Luke Freeman, McBurnie, Sharp, Robinson, Verrips, Osborn, Besic.

Man Utd: de Gea, Lindelof, Maguire, Jones, Wan Bissaka,  Andreas Pereira, Fred, Williams, James, Martial, Rashford. Subs:  Mata, Grant, Lingard, Young, Greenwood, Garner, Tuanzebe.

Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands) 

3:23PM

Good afternoon

and welcome to our live blog of Manchester United's visit to Sheffield United, the team news for which will be out any minute now. This piece about Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's transfer options in January suggests that whoever he selects today is going to be more or less what he has at the end of the season. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted there is little prospect of being able to acquire any of his leading transfer targets in January as the Manchester United manager sought to downplay hopes of a mid-season fix.

Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho, Leicester City playmaker James Maddison and  Red Bull Salzburg striker Erling Haaland, who worked with Solskjaer at Molde, are among the players United are watching.

But Solskjaer is adamant he will not be forced into making any panic buys and is prepared to see out the season with the squad he has unless a deal or a loan option presents itself.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer plays down January transfer spending spree

He makes a fair point about who is, and who is not available, to buy. But there is also the factor, perhaps, of how much the club wants to entrust him with the money. Would not be a massive surprise to see a new manager at the helm there over the next few months. 

Oh the humanity.

Team news coming right up. 

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