The main focus of gameweek 13 was the huge clash between Man City and Chelsea, two sides who are looking to catch up to the Liverpool, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a difficult trip and a crucial match away to Sheffield United. Chris Wilder’s men have been on fine form since being promoted to the Premier League and have prove themselves to the top teams, which cannot be said about the other new boys in Aston Villa and Norwich City, who are badly struggling.
Focusing on the game as a whole, the hosts without a doubt outplayed and dominated the visitors, in terms of chances created, shots completed and where most of the possession was played on the pitch. The Blades were magnificent and untouchable in the first half, importantly taken the lead through John Fleck whilst playing comfortably with the ball and with a really good level of tempo.
They managed to continue with that straight after the half-time break, in terms of winning the ball in the right areas and pressuring the opposition time and time again through their movement and intelligence. This is how they doubled their lead, as they were able to force Andreas Pereira to lose the ball in the central area with his team-mates high up the pitch, allowing John Fleck to find Lys Mousset on the quick counter attack, who perfectly placed his shot into the corner of the net.
Meanwhile for the Red Devils, they were all over the place for 70 minutes of the match, unconvincing defensively, completely anonymous in midfield and the front three were slouching around in the opponent’s half with nothing to feed from or work with. Even in the first half alone, they only completed one shot on goal, showing how they lacked the required desire and urgency.
However, after Solskjaer made a tweak to the system in the second half, the team were able to have more time and space on the ball whilst having the numbers to get into the final third of the pitch. From the 70th minute till the 80th minute, the attacking-minded and ruthless United side showed up, as United pulled out three well-worked goals from nowhere, with them coming from Brandon Williams, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, three players that came from the academy.
With just a couple of minutes to go, the neutral supporters of the Premier League got what they wanted for a special Sunday evening, as the substitute, Oliver McBurnie, saw his shot to be too powerful for David De Gea and went into the back of the net, leaving the points to be shared out by both teams. In the end, Sheffield United sit comfortably and proudly in sixth-place, whilst Manchester United find themselves in ninth position, nine points away from the top four spots.
Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…
The Red Devils do not have the foundation for a top four finish
Majority of the Old Trafford faithful would have felt that the chances of finishing in the top four would have been very slim a month or so ago, and now they would be thinking to themselves if the side are capable of finishing in the top half of the table. This is what happens when a squad is lacking the required depth and quality, something that the board and Ed Woodward have failed to repair.
Because of this unfortunate situation, the side have been forced to rely on the youngsters time and time again whilst there are not that many experienced players within the midfield and forward department to look up to. With there being no project and system put into place on and off the pitch, United are forced to work on individual quality and counter-attacking football, leaving them with a huge amount of uncertainty on if they can win games consistency and be successful at all.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is starting to show that the job is too big for him
If we are being brutally honest, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have been sacked by now if he wasn’t a former Manchester United player that is seen as likeable person by the club and its loyal supporters. For sure, he understands the club’s style of play and the history of the football club, but he hasn’t shown the intelligence and the tactical flexibility that he is made to manage one of the biggest clubs in the world, on top of the fact that he failed to be successful at Cardiff City and Molde previously.
With the likes of Marcelino, Mauricio Pochettino and Max Allegri available and seeking for a new club, the pressure is definitely on Solskjaer to start picking up the much needed performances or results, as the board and Ed Woodward will not be able to bare another season without Champions League football. If things do not end well with this campaign, it may be ideal for the 46-year-old Norwegian to step down from the job, in order to save his reputation as a legend of the club.
Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United continue to outdo everyone’s expectations
Sheffield United are proving to be one of the best surprises of the Premier League so far this season, as they have been able to show their quality on both sides of the pitch whilst playing in a unique system under manager Chris Wilder that involves the use of overlapping centre-backs. Within this style of play, the team are able to attack effectively and are in full control on and off the ball.
The Blades have been really successful against the big boys, having beaten Arsenal at home whilst taking one point each from the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and now Manchester United, with their only defeat being an unfortunate one against Liverpool. If both Chris Wilder and Sheffield United are able to keep this up, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see them finishing in the top half of the table, something they would have never dreamt of at the start of the Premier League campaign.