Man Utd: Three things we learnt from the Red Devils win over struggling Sheffield United

With both Chelsea and Manchester City dropping points in their respective games early in the week, it was crucial for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to take the advantage of the moment by beating struggling Sheffield United, who have only picked up one point so far this season and are embarrassingly yet to win a league game.

Looking at the match as a whole, the visitors had dominated possession and created more chances and had more shots than the hosts, who caused a number of problems to Manchester United in the first half but were unable to make the moments count in the final third of the pitch. Though, they made the key moment count in the 5th minute of the match, where Dean Henderson thought he had enough time on the ball and was aggressively pressed by Oliver Burke, leading to David McGoldrick slotting the ball into an empty goal.

However, once again, Manchester United kicked on from being a goal behind and managed to take the lead by the half-time break, with both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford scoring the much needed goals leaving the Sheffield United manager and players in absolute shock. The Red Devils sealed the three points in the second half of the game with Rashford scoring his second goal of the night early in the second half.

Despite McGoldrick scoring a late consolation in the 87th minute of the game, the Blades did not show enough creativity, intensity and urgency to push on for a huge equaliser in the final seconds of the match. Overall, with Manchester United wining 3-2 over Sheffield United, it allows the team to move into sixth-place with a game in hand, whilst Chris Wilder’s men remain in 20th place, picking up only one point out of a potential 39.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Victor Lindelof is proving to be the best centre-back at the club  

He’s had his ups and downs since moving to Old Trafford in 2017, however, Victor Lindelof is finally proving to be the best centre-back at the club, especially over the last couple of months. For sure, he may not be recognised as one of the best defenders in the Premier League let alone in Europe, but he is doing more than enough to help the side on both sides of the pitch, through his intelligent defending and ability on the ball.

The Swedish international played an inch-perfect ball over the top of Sheffield United’s defence, into the feet of Marcus Rashford, who smashed the ball into the net to give his team the much needed equaliser. Unfortunately, the only issue that remains for Lindelof alongside his lack of aerial ability, is that he is not complimented well by captain Harry Maguire, who is not expected to be dropped by Solskjaer anytime soon.

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford return onto the scoresheet

It’s been a slow season so far for the attacking duo in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who are typically expected to hit 15-20 Premier League goals a season, given the experience they have in the league and how much they are individually capable of. Though, with both players scoring the goals for Manchester United on Thursday evening, they will be hoping to get going with their campaign and aim to help the team with their qualities on and off the ball, as it will be the difference of the team finishing in the top four this season or not.

Not only that, but with Edinson Cavani making a huge impact whenever he is playing and Mason Greenwood being constantly hungry for game time, both Martial and Rashford have to ensure they perform consistently and at a high level in order to keep their place in the starting line-up. Looking more into the performance of the pair, the former showed really good movement off the ball and was tracking back time and time again whilst the latter’s burst of pace and dribbling ability was top notch, leaving Solskjaer totally satisfied.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a few important issues he has to iron out

Majority of the Old Trafford faithful will be content with the successful comeback that the team completed at Bramall Lane. On the other hand, the ongoing weaknesses within the manager, the team and the system are still quite clear. The Red Devils constant and key problems at this moment of time, happens to be the side’s lack of control against the teams weaker than them, and the amount of cheap goals that are being conceded.

Furthermore, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to solve another issue of balancing the team whilst having Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in the starting line-up, a problem he had at the end of last season and also at the start of the current campaign. Given that the team’s performances and results are inconsistent, the coach has to iron out a few important matters, especially if he wants to continue to manage Manchester United football club.

Man Utd 1-3 Crystal Palace: The Red Devils begin the new season with a defeat at home to the Eagles

Manchester United begin their 2020-21 Premier League season with a defeat at home to Crystal Palace, who were a unit defensively, composed in defending within their own half and were impressive on the counter against a very poor backline.

Given the lack of rest that the Red Devils have had from the previous campaign, as they reached the Europa League semi-finals before being eliminated by Sevilla, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his men have not had the necessary rest and ideal pre-season football in order to return to normal fitness levels.

Looking into the game as a whole, the hosts were in full control when it came to dominating possession of the ball, achieving 75% possession, creating two big chances during the match and completing 230 passes in the attacking third. On the other hand, the hosts managed only 43 successful passes in the final third, and still went onto scoring three goals throughout the game.

The Eagles took the lead in the 7th minute of the game, through Andros Townsend, who had beaten Luke Shaw at the far post to meet onto Jeffrey Schlupp’s low cross, and put it past David De Gea and into the back of the net. In all honesty, there was not much action following Townsend’s goal, as United were sloppy and slow on the ball whilst Palace were quite comfortable within a low-block.

Crystal Palace were giving a huge opportunity to double their lead just half way through the second half, as Martin Atkinson pointed to the penalty spot after reviewing the footage of Victor Lindelof handling the ball in the box. Wilfried Zaha stepped up and calmly slotted the ball from the spot.

United were able to get a goal back through Donny Van de Beek, who able to convert his attempt on goal after coming on from the bench for Paul Pogba. However, it was too late to attempt a potential comeback, as Zaha was able to outdo Lindelof and place his shot into the corner away from De Gea. Following the 3-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace, Manchester United are currently in 15th place whilst Roy Hodgson’s men sit comfortably in 5th place, winning their first two games of the season.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s first league fixture of the campaign…

Victor Lindelof continually proves to be a defensive liability

For sure, he wasn’t the only individual that was struggling and was absolutely poor from start to end, but it was the defensive mistakes produced by Victor Lindelof that had resulted in Crystal Palace walking away from Old Trafford with the three points. The Swedish international has shown time and time again, that he is unable to deal with one on one situations with a forward or a winger, as the latter are able to dribble, power and stride past the centre-back without any serious issues.

Lindelof has had this rising problem since he had moved to the Premier League a few years ago, and it’s a concerning weakness that has allowed the opposition to specifically target him on the counter-attack. Given the current situation that is presented to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was to drop Lindelof to the bench anytime soon and replace him with Eric Bailly, who is more dominant and complete, but is battling his own issues in terms of injuries and full fitness.

Nemanja Matic’s absence was costly for the team on and off the ball

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fielded a three-man midfield of Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, which was lacking the much-needed balance in front of the defence and the ability to win the ball high up the pitch. Without Nemanja Matic, who had returned to training only on Monday and was not prepared to play on Saturday at Old Trafford, the side had great difficulties at protecting the inconsistent backline, being fluid on the ball and remaining calm under pressure.

The 32-year-old may no longer be at his best or have the legs to cover enough area of the pitch, however, his invaluable experience and the balance and composure he brings to the midfield is second to none. Unfortunately, for the manager and the club, they do not have a similar player to Matic, which does mean that they will have to rely heavily on him once again this season.

The lack of business for Manchester United is starting to slowly hurt them

Manchester United have only made one signing so far this window, in Donny Van de Beek, which is not good enough when you are trying to finish in the top four in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. Not only that, but the board have failed to deliver a left-back and a much needed right-winger, two areas that needed addressing urgently and have not been done so in recent years, resulting in the side’s lack of development and progress as a whole.

The likes of Everton, Spurs and Wolves have been very proactive in the window, and it would not be a total surprise to see either of these three teams finish above the Red Devils in the Premier League. Unless Ed Woodward, the Glazers and the other key individuals within the board make some drastic signings in the final weeks of the transfer window, it will be very difficult for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United to finish in the top four again, looking at the serious competition around them.

Victor Lindelof is Manchester United’s best central defender but needs a partner to become the finished article


The supporters of a football club will always be protective when it comes to criticism of their own players. Generally expecting a positive picture of their rising stars within the English media, they can also be very quick to reveal their opinions and thoughts on individuals from other clubs. Meanwhile, now and again there is always a player who can be regarded as overrated or underrated by the press on a weekly basis. Manchester United’s Victor Lindelof is an example of one those types of players.

It’s not to highlight that Lindelof has not been an impressive signing for Manchester United, but more to the fact he has become an easy player to blame for when the side concede a goal in the league. With Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo only featuring recently for the Red Devils so far this campaign, the Swedish international has adapted to the Premier League with ease and is continuing to impress everyone week by week.

Although Lindelof had a rough and forgettable start to his early first months in England, he is now showing that he is the ideal ball-playing centre-back that Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United badly needs. Currently on the sidelines reportedly for the rest of the month with a thigh injury, it can easily be stated that the side are now having issues of playing out from the back without his key presence.

Meanwhile, there are still a number of areas for the player to improve on before he can be regarded as one of the best centre-backs within the league. Along with his ability to play out from the back and his intelligence of reading the game effectively, he needs to start dominating the physical strikers in the air and off the ball, as he can become a very easy player to target in United’s backline.

Despite the little amount of errors he has made, it has probably not cost Manchester United any points in the league, but if they had done so, a lot of pundits would have been his back, similar to what the likes of David Luiz, Jan Vertonghen and Shkodran Mustafi have experienced over the last couple of months. However, this has become a normal factor for centre-backs, as they are criticised for the small errors they produce but hardly receive the appreciation for when they perform well.

Without a doubt, Lindelof is the type defender who likes to be committed and wants to take risks, which can also involve doing more than just defending and helping the team to go forward in attack. Whilst playing at the half-way line as a centre-back, it leaves you clearly open to get caught out on the counter-attack, which is something that the 24-year-old needs to improve on as time goes on.

Once the side actually have an effective gameplan to utilise on a regular basis or a coached by the manager to develop and improve their skills, whether that is with Mourinho or not, then Lindelof along with the team’s defence will become a dominant and solid force that will be very hard to beat.

Overall, since his move from Portugal, Victor Lindelof has already been regarded as one of the most consistent centre-backs within the squad by many Premier League pundits and the Manchester United supporters. Once Mourinho himself can work out who is the right partner to play along with the Swede at the back, it would surely leave the Red Devils with an unbreakable partnership at the heart of defence which hasn’t been witnessed since the days of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

Victor Lindelöf is a positive light in a disappointing season so far for Manchester United

The season might not have been what was expected from Manchester United fans so far, but one thing that has been taken as a positive is Victor Lindelöf’s development in the heart of their defence.

Signed in the summer of 2017, Lindelöf arrived in Manchester with a relatively unknown reputation. Having played in Portugal with giants Benfica, the young Swede was picked out by José Mourinho who of course have very close ties with his native homeland.

The Red Devils’ senior management actually tried to sign Lindelöf at the start of 2017, but vetoed that idea after realising it would be better for the then 22-year-old to integrate into the squad and make the sizeable jump up in quality during the summer.

It was fair to say that Lindelöf went through teething problems at Old Trafford at the beginning of his career. He was in and out of the team during his first season in England and was failing to adjust and adapt to English football as quickly as some were suggesting when first arriving. One of the main problems for Lindelöf – and it does carry through until present day – is the lack of a prominent, commanding and experience central defender alongside him.

What stood Lindelöf in great stead for both club and country was the fact that he had such a reliable player next to him – such as at Benfica when he played with the 36-year-old Luisão and with Sweden’s captain, Andreas Granqvist - which enabled him to play his natural, flamboyant game without the worries of being wholly responsible for the defence. At Manchester United, however, with the chopping and changing that has occurred over the last two years, Lindelöf has not had that privilege.

“When I arrived at United, I knew it would be a huge challenge, but I felt ‘I can do this’. It was tougher at first, and at this level one has to deliver from the beginning,” Lindelöf said.

However, even with a tentative start that caused him to be under pressure early on his career in the North West, Lindelöf has now started to become a regular starter under Mourinho. The central defender has started 10 of the opening 12 Premier League matches this campaign, while also making three 90 minutes appearances in the Champions League from four games.

One of Lindelöf’s main attributes that was picked up on when clubs from around Europe started to scout him at Benfica was his ability to play out from the back effectively. After the hardship of attempting to make United’s current defenders attempt the same, it is no surprise as to why the club decided to move in Lindelöf’s direction.

This season it has appeared that Lindelöf has come out of his shell and is beginning to play the same level of football that first got Man United interested in signing him. The Swede is comfortable on the ball and has the ability to bring others into the game, whether that is deploying the early ball into midfield or picking out one of United’s forward’s runners down the channels.

Lindelöf has not yet reached his prime years and given he is only 24-years-old, there is still plenty of development to undergo for the Sweden international to reach his full potential. Consistency in his game is key, but he is slowly showing that under Mourinho’s guidance and is beginning to stand out from the rest of his competitors.

Just last week, the former Västerås SK player was crowned Swedish Footballer of the Year after his impressive World Cup with his country and also his performances this season for the Red Devils.

I am very aware of what career, what story I am writing,” he told Swedish outlet Aftonbladet.

“Ever since I came, he [Mourinho] told me to do my thing, that’s why I’m here. It’s been good, but I know I can do more.

“Especially when we have the ball, I want to show even more what I can do, because people have only seen fifty percent of what I can do. Mourinho pushes me to believe in myself.”

That belief in himself is what has turned things around so far for Lindelöf. He knows what the expectations are when coming to a club like Manchester United and he knows he needs to consistently be at the top of his game in order to be revered.

The Red Devils have been crying out for a stalwart defender to take control in their team for a number of years now and Lindelöf could well slip into that role. With the strides he has made this season, and the ambition he quite clearly possesses, this could be Lindelöf’s turning point that accelerates him as a reliable defender that Man United can count on for years to come.