Oli McBurnie strikes late against Manchester United to keep the feelgood factor rolling at Sheffield United

NEVER mind a spirited, out-of-nothing comeback from Manchester United, even the video assistant referee could not stop the feelgood story at Bramall Lane.

An hour into a rampant display which showcased just what a good football team Sheffield United are, few would have been happy to take a point against the aristocrats of English football but a fightback from nowhere allowed them to demonstrate they have the character to go with their quality.

The television viewers were royally entertained by a 3-3 draw which hopefully changes a few perceptions about the Blades.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

When referee Andre Marriner made the dreaded square in the sky, it looked like the hosts might be condemned to a 3-2 defeat but for once the video assistant referee, Graham Scott, sided with them, and ignored Manchester United complaints that substitute Oli McBurnie needed the help of his arm to force home an equaliser.

Oli McBurnie of Sheffield United celebrates scoring. PIC: Darren Staples/Sportimage.Oli McBurnie of Sheffield United celebrates scoring. PIC: Darren Staples/Sportimage.
Oli McBurnie of Sheffield United celebrates scoring. PIC: Darren Staples/Sportimage.

It was the least they deserved. Manchester United had looked like rabbits in the headlights in the first half.

The Blades had Simon Moore making his Premier League debut with Dean Henderson ineligible, but all he had to deal with in the first 45 minutes was a slightly dragged shot from Anthony Martial after 29 minutes.

At the other end, David De Gea had to be at his brilliant best to keep the score down.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Spaniard made an outstanding double save in the 11th minute, first keeping out a John Lundstram volley, then changing direction to paw David McGoldrick’s header out when his body weight was moving the wrong way. He should have realised then he was in for a busy afternoon.

John Fleck scored the opener. PIC: Simon Bellis/Sportimage.John Fleck scored the opener. PIC: Simon Bellis/Sportimage.
John Fleck scored the opener. PIC: Simon Bellis/Sportimage.

There was nothing complacent about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team-sheet, paying the Blades the compliment of matching their back three. They would have to change formation again at half-time, and twice in the second period. Two of his beefy centre-backs were quickly called upon, and brought the home fans into the game.

Manchester United’s captain for the day, former Blade Harry Maguire, was greeted with warm applause when his name was read out at kick-off but the Kop was seething with him in the 14th minute when he seemed to fairly outmuscle Lys Mousset, then grab the centre-forward in the penalty area.

To his left, Jones - very much a thud and blunder defender - had already rattled into a couple of tackles when he too appeared to get away with a foul on Mousset. Harassed by Sheffield United’s overloads, he was soon penalised for shoving over John Lundstram.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was an act of mercy when Jones was withdrawn at the interval.

Lys Mousset fires in a second. PIC: Simon Bellis/Sportimage.Lys Mousset fires in a second. PIC: Simon Bellis/Sportimage.
Lys Mousset fires in a second. PIC: Simon Bellis/Sportimage.

Mousset ran so hard he too had to make way midway through the second half with a muscle problem.

The difference between the starting formations was that while Manchester United employed two Brazilian sitting midfielders to accommodate a front three, Ollie Norwood holding the fort at the other end allowed the Blades two runners from the centre, and they were instrumental in the opening goal.

When Mousset beat Jones at the byline he had Lundstram for company and although De Gea’s right foot kept out the shot, it only played it to John Fleck, sniffing for rebounds.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There was no sitting on their advantage. When Fleck robbed Andreas Pereira in midfield, McGoldrick shot into De Gea’s midriff. Centre-back Chris Basham showed fancy footwork near the corner flag and George Baldock put in a cross Fred could only scramble behind for a corner.

“Are you Sheffield Wednesday in disguise?” was one of many gloating chants ringing in the away team’s ears.

Marcus Rashford served warning at the start of the second half he was not going down without a fight, first going on a long run down the left ended at the byline by Fleck, then blazing over.

Mousset appeared to pour a bucket of cold water over it, winning the ball in his own half, and producing a finish as good as the pass Fleck gave back to him.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That looked like that until three Manchester United goals in seven minutes.

When the Blades could only half-clear a Dan James cross for Williams to thump his first senior goal it could just have been a consolation, but Solskjaer immediately brought on Mason Greenwood and six minutes later he was getting his studs on a curling Rashford cross to equalise.

The Blades were getting hemmed in, unable to find substitute Oli McBurnie when they won the ball, and Rashford completed the turnaround after a one-two with James. Sheffield United, who responded by throwing on a third new striker, had not accepted their fate, inevitable though it was starting to feel.

In the 90th minute the second of the fresh forwards, Billy Sharp, found the first, McBurnie, whose shot De Gea was unable to stop going inside his far post.

The eternal wait as Scott scrutinised McBurnie’s control, just like the fright Manchester United had given, only added to the full-time delirium.