Manchester United had just about five minutes left to secure all three points against Sheffield United in the Premier League on Sunday. However, a stoppage time equalizer from Oli McBurnie snatched that chance away and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are facing yet another difficult battle to climb into the top four ahead of a decisive December schedule. The Blades hadn’t beaten the Red Devils in domestic competition since the first ever Premier League match in August 1992, and that’s perhaps one of few things United can savor after a disappointing afternoon. Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 3-3 draw against Sheffield United.
Play. The. Youths.
Fifty-two minutes into the second half, United went two goals down and were in desperate need of some magic. It wouldn’t happen until 20 minutes later, but what a spectacular volley it was by defender Brandon Williams to cut the deficit in half.
19 year old Brandon Williams pulls one back for Manchester United pic.twitter.com/xtibLx9Mnq— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) November 24, 2019
Mason Greenwood, who came on as a sub at half-time for Phil Jones, found the back of the net just minutes later. The 18-year-old had scored for United in other competitions, but he finally opened his Premier League account with this beauty.
THE KIDS ARE GETTING IT DONE FOR MANCHESTER UNITED pic.twitter.com/mpdVXX22UJ— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) November 24, 2019
Finally, academy superstar Marcus Rashford added to his goal tally this season with a left-footed finish to put United ahead.
SCENES RASHFORD PUTS UNITED AHEAD pic.twitter.com/IHWgr69rE3— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) November 24, 2019
United have always lauded the success of their academy program, and this brilliant performance by three alums show why.
Midfield weakening with every match
Andreas Pereira had never looked so counterproductive on the pitch, making constant disappointment Fred look like a world-class midfielder. Rashford and Anthony Martial entered the match at full fitness, but weren’t able to capitalize on exhausting Sheffield’s defense early on because there was such an absence of skill from the aforementioned players. The first half at Bramall Lane was arguably one of United’s worst this campaign, with the squad only registering one shot on goal in 45 minutes.
The midfield’s poor form only summarizes how much of a let-down the summer transfer window was and how crucial the January transfer window will be. The irresponsibleness shown by Solskjaer and Ed Woodward is no longer something be overlooked, as it has affected United’s ability to exit several matches with three full points. Furthermore, it only shows how crucial Paul Pogba’s return will be. The Frenchman is likely to make his triumphant return ahead of the festive fixtures and wunderkid Scott McTominay won’t be far behind. No one is waiting with bated breath for Nemanja Matić to suit up, so replenishing the lost talent in the middle must be a top priority in the new year.
With Pochettino looming, Solskjaer must improve
Mauricio Pochettino’s sudden availability ignited more grumbling from the #OleOut horde. Unfortunately, Sunday’s result won’t quiet them for the time being. The Norwegian made a sound choice to substitute Phil Jones for Jesse Lingard at the break, showing supporters and critics he also recognized the Englishman’s failure to clear the ball which led to Sheffield’s opening goal.
Solskjaer improved on his substitutions in the 73rd minute, sending on the eventual goal-scorer Greenwood for Pereira. When United went up 3-2, it theoretically made sense to sub Martial for Axel Tuanzebe. That proved to be a costly error when McBurnie found the equalizer during stoppage time. United were in control of the match at that point and looked to be in position to score a decisive fourth goal. This decision by Solskjaer has been made before, and it points to how short-sighted the boss’ decision-making can be. Instead of playing offense for the final 10 minutes against a strong Sheffield side, he elected to instead drop back on defense knowing the defense was questionable throughout the entire match. With his job riding on how the Red Devils perform, Solskjaer must look to better his judgement before United lose any more costly points and he finds himself exiting Old Trafford around the same time José Mourinho did last December.