Manchester United's luck runs out on the night no one thought it would
This time, they couldn’t turn it around. Sheffield United ignored the script after Manchester United equalised, and somehow, somehow, bottom-club Blades bounced back to secure their first win at Old Trafford since 1973. It has left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s title-chasing side with mid-table home form, and Manchester City’s position looking rosier than ever.
Bruno Fernandes (L) and teammates react after conceding their second goal during the Premier League football match between Manchester United and Sheffield United
Published 27/01/2021 at 22:42 GMT | Updated 28/01/2021 at 08:18 GMT
Something had to give, though few saw it coming against Sheffield United on Wednesday night.
Manchester United boast an incredible record from losing positions this season. Heading into the match with Sheffield United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had picked up 21 points when conceding the first goal in the Premier League. To put that into perspective, Liverpool are second in that particular statistic having picked up 10 points – 11 fewer than United, who have enjoyed seven complete turnarounds to just the two losses.
What will have concerned Solskjaer was the fact those two defeats came at Old Trafford – the seven comebacks all coming away – and his anxiety will only have increased when Kean Bryan headed the Blades ahead.
'We'll bounce back' - Solskjaer reacts to United's shock defeat to Sheffield United
Sheffield United had picked up just one win in their opening 19 league games, the worst record of the Premier League era, and so when scoring just their 11th goal of the season they found themselves in a rare position – with a lead to protect.
Perhaps that explained Chris Wilder’s face when the Blades boss realised there was still 67 minutes left on the clock to defend a 1-0 against a side so strong at turning matches around.
Manchester United almost responded immediately, but after an Anthony Martial goal was controversially ruled out, the first half played out in a pedestrian manner which will have delighted the visiting United.
The onus was on Solskjaer’s side to break down a side battling for their lives at the other end of the table, and eventually they found the equaliser when Harry Maguire headed in from a corner.
All part of the script. An eighth win from a losing position looked just around the corner, but rather than lie down Sheffield United somehow regained the lead, capitalising on some sloppy defending and a mighty deflection off Axel Tuanzebe. Delight for Oliver Burke, though, who joined Kean in scoring his first ever Premier League goal.
The Blades held on to follow Arsenal and Crystal Palace in inflicting a home defeat on Manchester United. That keeps with the trend of United failing to turn around matches at home, but still ends their streak – arguably a lucky one – of winning their past five matches when conceding the first goal.
Man Utd’s Premier League results when conceding first goal
vs Crystal Palace – Lose 3-1
vs Brighton – Win 3-2
vs Newcastle – Win 4-1
vs Arsenal – Lose 1-0
vs Everton – Win 3-1
vs Southampton – Win 3-2
vs West Ham – Win 3-1
vs Sheff Utd – Win 3-2
vs Fulham – Win 2-1
vs Sheff Utd – Lose 2-1
It also shines a light on Manchester United’s poor home record this season. Four wins, two draws, four losses. They may be the best team on the road, but it will be a struggle to topple Manchester City if their home form remains all-too mid-table.
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Premier League home table
1. Man City – Played: 10, Points: 23
2. Liverpool – Played: 10, Points: 23
3. West Ham – Played: 10, Points: 18
4. Chelsea – Played: 10, Points: 16
5. Leicester – Played: 10, Points: 16
6. Southampton – Played: 10, Points: 16
7. Tottenham – Played: 9, Points: 15
8. Arsenal – Played: 10, Points: 14
9. Everton – Played: 9, Points: 14
10. Man Utd – Played: 10, Points: 14
11. Aston Villa – Played: 8, Points: 13
12. Burnley – Played: 9, Points: 13
13. Wolves – Played: 10, Points: 12
14. Crystal Palace – Played: 10, Points: 12
15. Leeds United – Played: 9, Points: 11
16. Newcastle – Played: 10, Points: 11
17. Fulham – Played: 10, Points: 6
18. Brighton – Played: 9, Points: 5
19. West Brom – Played: 10, Points: 5
20. Sheff Utd – Played: 10, Points: 4
Yes it was first league defeat since November 1, but this one will hurt, and given City still have a game in hand, it was a missed opportunity from United to put the pressure back on their city rivals.