Manchester United 4 Sheffield United 2: Pride in defeat as Blades leave Old Trafford through the front door

On the face of it, all Sheffield United got from their latest trip tom Old Trafford was a 23rd defeat of the Premier League season and a new record for the most goals conceded in a 38-game campaign.

The reality of their 4-2 loss was rather different.

The Blades went toe to toe with Manchester United and although in the end the fallen giants came out on top, as well they should given all their extra resources, they and their under-fire manager Erik ten Hag were made to sweat right until the last five minutes.

Pride, not points, are the priority for the Championship-bound Blades and after a woeful display in defeat to Burnley days earlier, they grabbed back a handful.

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Having had to watch his replacement, Ivo Grbic, struggle in the last few months, goalkeeper Wes Foderingham put on a good advertisement for his services when his contract expires in June.

Oliver Arblaster not only led his boyhood team at the age of 20 years-old, he did so from the front.

And the team as a while showed fighting spirit to take the lead twice despite allowing their hosts to monopolise the ball.

Ultimately the Red Devils got over the line but they could never be said to be comfortable.

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GOAL: Jayden Bogle makes it 1-0 to Sheffield UnitedGOAL: Jayden Bogle makes it 1-0 to Sheffield United
GOAL: Jayden Bogle makes it 1-0 to Sheffield United

Who knows when Sheffield United will be back at this ground where they have so many memories, good and bad, but at least, to use a Chris Wilderism, they "left through the front door, not the back".

The Red Devils might be a pale imitation of sides of years gone by, but still sides need their goalkeeper to play well – certainly the side with the highest number of goals conceded in a Premier League season, as the Blades became when Bruno Fernandes converted a 61st-minute penalty.

But the visitors' performance was about more than just an excellent goalkeeping display.

Manager Wilder's decision to hand the captain's armband to Arblaster – a 20-year-old midfielder who spent the first half of the season on loan at League One Port Vale – spoke volumes about him but also the 10 selected alongside him.

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The responsibility did nothing to subdue him, cutting out the first dangerous pass of the game, from Antony, and putting an excellent penalty-area tackle on an even younger and more celebrated midfielder in Kobbie Mainoo seconds after a crunching foul on him.

He was more than just a destroyer, playing the pass from which Cameron Archer dragged wide in the 14th minute.

Anel Ahmedhodzic, passed over for the captain's armband he worse earlier in the season, showed he was up for it too with a big block to deny Fernandes. The offside flag went up on the back of it but it was important nonetheless as a sign of his team's mindset.

Gustavo Hamer would throw himself in the way of an Antony effort.

It was Foderingham, though, who stole the show.

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"League One Wes" denied Alejandro Garnacho when the winger played a one-two, and denied Rasmus Hojlund with his feet from a tight angle. His low save from Mainoo was excellent after a ball from makeshift centre-back Casemiro had carved open the defence.

The Blades started in a 3-5-2 formation and although they defended in a very low block, they looked positive when they counter-attacked with a degree of incision.

But as the waves of attacks by the home team grew almost as relentless as the cries of "Sheffield United" from the away end, Wilder moved Brereton Diaz into midfield to stifle the flow and was quickly rewarded with a goal.

Wing-back Jayden Bogle – the other leader, along with Arblaster, Wilder shielded from criticism after Saturday's weak defeat to Burnley – pounced on Andre Onana's misdirected pass to score.

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It dented the hosts' confidence without changing the flow of the game, Fernandes trying his luck a couple of times.

But in the 43rd minute, the home side got back on level terms, a cross clearing the box and being put back in by Garnacho for Blades academy product Harry Maguire to deftly glance inside the far post in the 45th minute.

Foderingham had to save from Garnacho to stop the familiar pattern of one goal conceded by the Blades quickly becoming two.

The visitors were undeterred, Brereton Diaz restoring their lead early in the second half when he fought for the ball on the left and ran inside as it was worked to Hamer and Ben Osborn, who pulled it back for the Chilean to score.

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Manchester United had the ball in the net in the 59th minute, but not before referee Michael Salisbury had whistled for a penalty as Auston Trusty tugged at Maguire's shirt. Eventually Fernandes stepped forward to blast home the penalty.

The Blades nearly led a third time, Onana's weight going the wrong was as a Brereton Diaz shot deflected off Maguire and just wide, but it was Fernandes who broke them with a long-range effort even Foderingham could not keep out.

He turned provider for Hojlund to tap in with five minutes to go but ha Hamer's free-kick shortly afterwards thudded the net rather than the advertising hoardings, the squirming could have gone on.

The away fans could head to their cars, coaches and trains feeling pride, not shame. It matters.

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Manchester United: Onana; Dalot, Casemiro, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka; Eriksen (McTominay 64), Mainoo (Amrabat 90+1); Antony (Diallo 55), Fernandes, Garnacho; Hojlund (Wheatley 90+1).

Unused substitutes: Bayindir, Forson, Amass, Ogunneye, Jackson.

Sheffield United: Foderingham; Bogle )Norwood 77), Holgate, Ahmedhodzic, Trusty, Osborn; Hamer, Arblaster, Brooks (Souza HT); Brereton Diaz, Archer (McAtee 62 (Osula 87)).

Unused substitutes: Grbic, Slimane, Larouci, Curtis, Hampson.

Referee: M Salisbury (Higher Penwortham).

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