Five things we learned as Manchester United lose to Sheffield United

Manchester United have suffered a surprise defeat to Sheffield United.

Harry Maguire’s goal came sandwiched between two Blades goals and United have have taken a serious setback in the process.

Photo by DAVE THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

United’s starters let Solskjaer down

Right after the Liverpool game, Solskjaer said he wanted his players to show the same focus and intensity against Sheffiel United. What he got was an unmitigated disaster for a first 45 minutes.

United’s players lacked dynamism and came out completely flat. Sheffield United took a lead from a corner, after having a shot saved minutes earlier.


We waited for United to show a response, as has happened so often after conceding early goals. It didn’t happen. United were flat, and made it look like Solskjaer picked the wrong team.

It was a disjointed effort which set us up for a difficult second 45 minutes. The performance was so bad that nobody would have been surprised if Solskjaer made changes before the half-time whistle.

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Referee inconsistency laid bare

The one mitigation for United’s first half was that if there was a reversal in two similar incidents, we would have gone in ahead.

Billy Sharp deliberately pushed David de Gea to prevent him getting to the corner ahead of Kean Bryan. United still should have defended it better, but it was a clear foul.

10 minutes later United had a goal ruled out for less contact, when Harry Maguire challenged goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, and the ball fell to the feet of Anthony Martial who tapped it into the net. The goal was ruled out.

The claim that decisions always go in United’s favour is a fallacy. We were on the wrong end of this one, with the inconsistency and poor standard of officiating shown up. What is the point in VAR if it is not going to be used properly?

Solskjaer’s pondering on the bench

It was a shock that no changes were made at half-time. And five minutes into the second half it was still apparent there was little change in performance level.

The game got to 60 minutes and still no changes. Sheffield United in fact looked more likely to score again.

This was weak management from Solskjaer to let the ineptness level of performance just carry on. Anthony Martial was a passenger, as was Nemanja Matic in midfield.

Solskjaer was ponderous in making changes and waited until the 66th minute to make United’s first substitution, finally bringing Edinson Cavani on for Mason Greenwood, just after Harry Maguire had equalised with a header.

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Alex Telles to Maguire connection pays off

Alex Telles is a fantastic crosser of the ball and his set piece deliveries proved to be our trump card to get back into the game.

Maguire did so well to head the ball in. He has been very inaccurate with his headers since joining United and this was a moment we needed him to get it right.

We hoped when Telles signed that his corners would allow Maguire to profit. This connection paid off at a crucial time with United desperate for a goal.

Defensively, both players will be disappointed with their roles in the Blades’ second goal.

(Photo by Tim Keeton –

A setback United must learn from

This was a game United should have been home and dry in. Solskjaer picked a strong team, and it still wasn’t good enough.

After equalising it seemed as though United would inevitably go on and win.

Instead there was some shambolic defending and United were undone for a sloppy second goal. It might turn out to be a jolt United needed, but this felt totally avoidable.

Every team suffers defeats, it is now about how we respond to them. Next up is an away trip to Arsenal. It won’t be an easy game and it has now taken on extra importance.

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