Manchester United suffered a surprising defeat at the hands of bottom of the table Sheffield United on Wednesday night. The game saw an excruciating performance from the Red Devils. We were so slow in our play and just lacking in the final third of the pitch. The front three just did not connect with each other. When our captain Harry Maguire scored our equaliser in the 64th minute, we thought we would have kicked on and got the win. However, shocking defending gifted Sheffield United their winning goal and secured only their second win of the season. United has suffered a setback in the race to be title contenders. Here are five things we learned from our defeat against the Blades.
1. United must learn from this setback
On paper before this game, everything pointed towards what should have been a routine victory for United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has selected a strong attacking team against the Blades but it was just not good enough from us. After equalising and with Cavani being brought off the bench, it seems like we would go onto win and return to the top of the Premier League table. However, United’s defending which has been questionable at times this season came back to haunt us.
The recent run of winning games we had been on was going to come to an end at some point. This might be the kick that United and the players needed. It is now how we react to this defeat. We have an away fixture to Arsenal on Saturday evening. This will not be an easy game either and it has now taken on added significance.
2. Inconsistency from the referee
There were two incidents in the first half that went against United and if they had been given to us, then we would have been ahead at half time. The first goal scored by Sheffield United saw Billy Sharp push David De Gea in the back, which meant he was unable to get ahead of Kean Bryan during the corner to either punch or catch the ball. But the goal was given by the referee and VAR did not intervene on the matter.
It does not take away the fact that United should have defended the corner better and that set pieces are still costing us this season. It was 10 minutes after this we had scored ourselves but Harry Maguire had made less contact with their goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, from which the ball landed at Anthony Martial who put the ball into the net. However, the goal was ruled out.
Opposition fans like to complain that United get given all the decisions is completely wrong as tonight is evidence of that. It is the inconsistency from the referee that meant we were on the wrong end of the decisions. It begs the question, what is the point of VAR if it is not going to intervene.
3. Solskjaer is let down by the players
After a victory against Liverpool at the weekend, Solskjaer had said he wanted to see the players show the same determination and energy against Sheffield United. What we did see was nothing like that. For the first 60 minutes of the game, United lack the cutting edge we had shown in our previous games. We just looked flat in everything we were trying to do.
We waited to see a response from the United players after conceding the first goal but nothing came. It just raised the question of whether Ole had chosen the wrong team for this game. The disappointing first half meant it would be a big second half as we look to return to top spot in the league with a win. The performance from those players meant Ole might have made some substitutions at half time.
4. Substitutions needed to be made sooner
Ole did not make any substitutions at half time as he could have taken several players off. We had expected to see United come out for the second half with a better response. However, five minutes in and the performance was the same as the first half. As the game ticked towards the 60th minute and there had still been no changes. Sheffield United looked like the side that was going to score the next goal.
Solskjaer could have made substitutions sooner in order to improve the performance. Anthony Martial had a poor game tonight as well as Nemanja Matic. Maybe Cavani should have started the game ahead of Martial. Ole could have brought on Fred or even Van De Beek sooner for Matic as we chased to get ahead in the game after Harry Maguire’s equaliser.
5. Pogba and Fernandes lack of influence
During this season, Bruno Fernandes has been the player that has driven United forward by winning points through his goals and assists. Paul Pogba has also been very influential in recent games as his goals secured wins against Burnley and Fulham.
It was in these two games and then the league game against Liverpool that Fernandes’s performances have just dipped slightly. He has been on the edge of games and not been his usual threat to the opposition. It is now four league games that he has not been able to give that spark to United. This is very much acceptable but other players needed to step up. Pogba wasn’t able to raise his game tonight as we did not create enough chances to get the result we wanted.