Manchester United are eyeing a vital win in their bid to retain the fifth spot in the league table when they face Sheffield United on Wednesday.
On the weekend, Manchester United failed to restart their 2019/20 Premier League campaign on a positive note, registering a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur, coached by former boss Jose Mourinho. However, their willingness to find an equaliser after going 1-0 down was one of the key takeaways from the game that also witnessed the return of Paul Pogba.
Nevertheless, a victory this midweek against Sheffield United will be imperative in Man United’s bid to retain their place in the fifth of the league table. The Red Devils are currently leading sixth-placed Wolves only due to a superior goal difference while Tottenham Hotspur(8th) aren’t far either.
Sheffield United themselves could overtake Manchester United with a win on Wednesday. The Blades are standing seventh in the league table with 44 points, two behind their midweek rivals. That means a victory against the Premier League giants should be enough to potentially help them climb to fifth, although it depends on Wolves’ result against Bournemouth.
Unfortunately for Sheffield, however, they haven’t exactly enjoyed a positive start to their post-break campaign, having recently slumped to a 3-0 defeat against Newcastle United. Hence, the primary objective for Chris Wilder’s side will be to salvage at least a point against Manchester United.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this crucial upper-mid table fixture at Old Trafford this midweek.
Tactics & Team News
Pogba made his highly-anticipated return against Tottenham on the weekend. But more importantly, he played a key role in Manchester United’s 1-1 draw, and the Frenchman is now pushing for a start this midweek, most likely at the expense of Fred.
The Brazilian’s potential absence from the starting lineup means Scott McTominay is set to play an important role in the holding midfield role. The young midfielder will be in charge of screening the backline that did look quite vulnerable in the last game.
Harry Maguire, in particular, will be hoping to improve his performance this week alongside Victor Lindelof, who is likely to be fit despite taking a knock against Tottenham. The rest of the backline should consist of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luka Shaw operating as fullbacks.
Meanwhile, in the attack, Bruno Fernandes should look to provide the creative essence alongside Pogba in central midfield, although the Portuguese international is more than expected to feature in a slightly advanced role.
Marcus Rashford, however, wasn’t useful in a wider role in the last game. But we could see him retain his place at right-wing, with Daniel James operating on the opposite flank and Anthony Martial leading the attack. Odion Ighalo is another option in the number nine slot, having featured as a substitute in the last game.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba, Fernandes; Rashford, Martial, James.
The biggest blow for Sheffield United heading into this fixture is the absence of Dean Henderson. The in-demand goalkeeper, on loan from Manchester United, is ineligible to face his former club. Simon Moore is most likely to replace him in goal, ahead of Michael Verrips.
Another player set to miss out this week is key defender John Egan, who is facing a suspension. Wilder has confirmed that Phil Jagielka will replace the centre-back.
The veteran defender is set to form the three-man backline alongside Chris Basham, and Jack Robinson, who is likely to start should Jack O’Connell fail to return to full fitness.
In midfield, however, players like John Lundstram and Jack Rodwell are pushing for a start, especially after a disastrous performance in the last game. But the technical quality of players like Sander Berge could be useful against a Man United defence that often looks shaky.
Hence, Wilder might just retain the services of his central midfield while the Sheffield United attack could be spearheaded by the familiar duo of Oliver McBurnie and captain Billy Sharp, although Lys Mousset is another option.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Moore; Basham, Jagielka, Robinson; Baldock, Berge, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McBurnie, Sharp.
- Man Utd have won their last seven home meetings with Sheffield United in all competitions by an aggregate score of 17-2, since a 1-2 league defeat in December 1973.
- Sheffield United’s last victory against Man Utd was in an FA Cup tie in February 1993 (2-1) – since then they’ve drawn one and lost seven of their eight meetings with the Red Devils.
- Yorkshire clubs are winless in their last 42 top-flight visits to face Manchester United at Old Trafford (D11 L31) since Sheffield Wednesday won 2-0 in April 1986.
- Manchester United have lost four of their last six (W2) midweek Premier League matches (Tuesday-Thursday), as many as they had in their previous 32 such games in the competition (W17 D11 L4).
- Manchester United are unbeaten in 12 games in all competitions (W8 D4), netting 30 goals and conceding just three in that run. They last had a longer run without defeat between November 2016-January 2017 (17 games).
Player to Watch
Pogba made a massive impact when he made his return to the pitch against Tottenham, appearing as a substitute. The Frenchman immediately started influencing the midfield with his dynamism, aggression and exquisite control over the ball.
Paul Pogba’s game by numbers vs. Spurs (34 minutes played):
100% long pass accuracy
94% pass accuracy
4 ball recoveries
1 penalty won
Changed the game. 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/1yOBMCcXVO
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) June 19, 2020
But more importantly, his unrivalled ball distribution made Manchester United much more dangerous on the counter, especially with pacy attackers like James and Rashford hovering out wide. In fact, Pogba ended up winning a penalty that led to the equaliser.
Sheffield, therefore, have a job on their hands as they look to minimise the creative essence provided by the “dream duo” of Pogba and Fernandes in the Manchester United midfield. It will be interesting to see how Wilder’s cope with these two undoubtedly talented individuals.
Manchester United 1-0 Sheffield United
Although the home advantage is nullified due to the lack of crowd, Manchester United have an upper hand in this fixture, with Sheffield United missing two of their key defensive figures. Moreover, the Red Devils have been able to strengthen themselves with the return of Pogba.
Although we do expect a narrow 1-0 win for the home side, it is going to be a tightly contested fixture as Wilder’s men are often known for their disciplined defence and a strong pressing unit that could minimise the influence of United’s offensive firepower.