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Starting XI: Sheffield United vs. Manchester United

United hope to stay hot at Bramall Lane on Sunday

Tottenham Hotspur v Sheffield United - Premier League
This guy won’t be playing.
Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

With another international break in the books, Manchester United travel to Bramall Lane for a showdown with Sheffield United on Sunday. Here’s everything that you need to know ahead of the match.

(1) Manchester United will climb above Sheffield United with a win this weekend and, depending on Arsenal’s result, could even rise as high as fifth in the Premier League. The top four have pretty well separated themselves from the chasing pack, but United could at least position themselves as the best of the rest.

(2) With Paul Pogba already sidelined until December, Manchester United can ill afford another injury in midfield. Alas, that’s exactly what happened when Scott McTominay went down with an ankle knock against Brighton (although the initial injury probably occurred during the Partizan Belgrade win). McTominay looks doubtful for Sunday, especially after withdrawing from the Scotland camp to focus on his rehab.

(3) Luckily — or not, depending on how you rate him — Nemanja Matić may be ready for the Sheffield United trip. The veteran midfielder hasn’t played much this season, but could start alongside Fred in McTominay’s absence. If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer judges Matić short of full fitness, the next best option is probably James Garner.

(4) Two other possible returnees are Luke Shaw and Axel Tuanzebe, who both rejoined training with an eye on featuring this weekend. Despite the ascension of Brandon Williams at left back, Shaw would likely go straight back into the starting eleven. Tuanzebe, on the other hand, provides Solskjaer another center back option to the struggling Victor Lindelöf.

(5) On Sunday, Harry Maguire returns to where it all began. The center back started his career at Sheffield United and can’t wait to take the field at Bramall Lane once again:

They have been great with me ever since, the Sheffield United fans, so I’ve got a lot to thank them for. I’ll be back at Bramall Lane and I’m sure I’ll get a better reception than I did from the Leicester fans when they came to Old Trafford!

(6) Since losing to Liverpool 1-0 at the end of September, Sheffield United are unbeaten in five Premier League matches. That includes impressive home wins over Arsenal and Burnley — plus a 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur that proved to be the (delayed) death blow for Mauricio Pochettino.

(7) The Blades play well against bigger sides (see above), while Manchester United have only been so-so on the road. Five points from six Premier League away matches is not a great return for the Reds, especially considering the relatively low level opposition. On the plus side, Chris Wilder’s side looks unlikely to sit back with men behind the ball, a tactic that has vexed United all season.

(8) Wilder has won plenty of praise for his system of overlapping center backs. Sounds crazy? Check out Statman Dave’s breakdown of this tactical wrinkle and how it’s keeping Premier League defenses on their toes.

(9) Despite Sheffield United scoring only 13 goals so far, Wilder seems to be growing a strong strike force for the future. Oli McBurnie (23), Callum Robinson (24), and leading scorer Lys Mousset (23) all play big minutes after signing in the summer. The Blades need more goals from this trio, but it’s way too early to write this attack off.

(10) In defense, though, Sheffield United rank among the best. The Blades are second in the Premier League with only nine goals allowed, putting them just one goal behind Leicester City for the stingiest backline. Starting CB John Egan might miss Sunday’s match, though, after suffering a head injury (and possibly a calf one, too) during Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifier on Monday.

(11) Dean Henderson, on loan from Manchester United, has dazzled all season long at Bramall Lane. But, thankfully, he won’t be able to play this weekend against his parent club. Expect Wilder to turn to Simon Moore in goal. That’s a big step down for the Blades — Henderson has already kept five clean sheets and turned himself into one of the top young goalkeepers in the Premier League. There may never be a clear pathway for Henderson into the United first team, but he’s trying his best to force his way into Ole’s plans.