Manchester United escaped from a topsy turvy encounter at Sheffield United with a 3-3 draw on Sunday, as pressure continues to mount on Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Goals from three academy products — Brandon Williams, Mason Greenwood, and Marcus Rashford — saw United claw their way back from two down to go in front, but a last-gasp equaliser from the hosts left a sour taste in the mouth.
The first half was one of the most dismal in recent memory, notwithstanding the ever-expanding pool of possible candidates. United were utterly hopeless with the ball, but somehow even worse without it. The hosts applied all of the pressure, and fully deserved their lead when it arrived less than halfway through the opening period.
It was a goal almost embarrassing in its simplicity. A long ball over the top of Phil Jones was chased down by Lys Mousset, whose effective harrying left the hapless defender flat on his backside. Mousset’s low cross from the right was met by John Lundstram, whose shot was saved, but David de Gea had no time to recover to deny John Fleck on the rebound.
By then, the Blades would’ve been two up had De Gea not made a brilliant double-save to deny Lundstram low to his right, and then repel a powerful header from David McGoldrick on the following cross. United, in contrast, failed to test Simon Moore at all in the opening half, and soon chants of “sacked in the morning” soon started echoing around Bramhall Hall.
It took less than six minutes of the second half for things to go from bad to worse. Andreas Pereira gave possession away in midfield, allowing Fleck to slide the ball through for Mousset. His driven effort from outside the penalty area arrowed passed de Gea and into the bottom corner, leaving Solskjær scratching his head on the dugout.
United had still created almost nothing from open play by the time a piece of individual brilliance from teenager Williams offered them a glimmer of hope. A deep cross from the right was flicked into his direction, and from the left side of the penalty area the unmarked full-back rifled his shot straight into the far corner. It was a goal that triggered one of the most unlikely comebacks imaginable.
Having been atrocious for over an hour, United drew level seven minutes later. This time it was Mason Greenwood who got on the scoresheet, tapping home a teasing low cross from Marcus Rashford. And just three minutes later, Rashford himself turned scorer, sending United in front when they deserved to be dead and buried. No one in the ground seemed to quite believe what had happened.
United’s disbelief was cut short, however, when Sheffield United drew level in stoppage time. Oli McBurnie’s celebrations were suspended during a lengthy VAR review, but he was eventually adjudged to have controlled the ball with his shoulder rather than arm before poking past de Gea from inside the area. It was the least his side deserved.
The chaos of the second half, and United’s miraculous if ill-deserved comeback, should not be allowed to mask the harsh truth: this was a shockingly bad performance from the Reds. It is surely right to cast doubt on Solskjær’s capacity to mitigate the difficult circumstances in which United find themselves, and the new availability of the talented and experienced Mauricio Pochettino makes persisting with him an even less necessary risk. Ed Woodward won’t be phoning Pochettino tonight, and that’s yet another mistake.