Sheffield United 3-3 Manchester United
- Goals: John Fleck (£4.8m, Lys Mousset (£5.0m), Oli McBurnie (£5.7m) | Brandon Williams (£4.0m), Mason Greenwood (£4.3m), Marcus Rashford (£8.6m)
- Assists: John Lundstram (£4.9m), Fleck, Callum Robinson (£5.3m) | Rashford, Daniel James (£6.2m)
- Bonus: Fleck x3, Rashford x2, Mousset x1
Not many punters would have had a three-all draw on their betting coupons ahead of Sunday’s clash at Bramall Lane.
A six-goal thriller looked just as unlikely 20 minutes from time in South Yorkshire, with Sheffield United 2-0 up and coasting to a fairly comfortable victory.
Three Manchester United goals in seven minutes turned the game on its head but a late Oli McBurnie (£5.7m) strike salvaged a point for the hosts, who would have been left with mixed feelings despite defeat being avoided.
Make no mistake, this was no end-to-end classic.
The Blades were by some distance the better side for three-quarters of this full-blooded contest, with Chris Wilder’s troops proving yet again that they are a force to be reckoned with at this level.
Sheffield United have recently been elevated to a “three” on the FPL Fixture Difficulty Rating scale and they are no longer the enticing deep-blue prospect they once were for opponents on our Season Ticker, either – finally, a fair reflection of just how good they are and how few times they have been beaten in the Premier League, with the top-flight newbies still yet to be defeated by more than a single-goal margin.
The opening 45 minutes at Bramall Lane was the Blades as we have seen them many times already in 2019/20, going toe to toe with a “bigger” or more established club (the recent home games against Arsenal and Burnley being good examples) and besting them.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had only one shot before the break as Sheffield United swarmed over their visitors, pressing them aggressively and denying them any space in attack.
This wasn’t just about their impressive defence, either: David de Gea (£5.5m) had to perform heroics to keep out a John Lundstram (£4.9m) strike and a David McGoldrick (£5.4m) header before John Fleck (£4.8m) fortuitously broke the deadlock on 18 minutes, with de Gea having again superbly denied Lundstram only to see the ball bobble in off the Scotland international’s shin.
The hosts’ dominance wasn’t rewarded further until after the break, with Lys Mousset (£5.0m) continuing his excellent form – six attacking returns in five Gameweeks – when curling past de Gea from a fine Fleck pass.
While Wilder’s side beat a retreat after doubling their lead, Simon Moore (£4.4m) was seldom threatened on his first-ever Premier League start until the visitors scored out of the blue in the 71st minute.
Seeing the Blades look so comfortable on and off the ball begged the question of why more of their players aren’t more widely owned in FPL: of the 14 Sheffield United assets to feature on Sunday, only Lundstram was owned by more than 3% of Fantasy managers – although Dean Henderson (£4.7m), who sits in 5.4% of FPL squads, was ineligible for this clash with his parent club.
Perhaps the favourable fixture swing – Wilder’s side are top of our Season Ticker for the next six Gameweeks – will remedy that.
Mousset is certainly presenting a convincing case as a budget third striking option, although the former Bournemouth forward did limp off in the second half and his overall fitness is perhaps a concern given that Wilder’s side now faces three league games in eight days at the beginning of December.
Lundstram continues to pose a goal threat and on another day would have been on the scoresheet himself, while security of starts and the odd attacking return makes Fleck arguably the most attractive sub-£5.0m midfielder on the market at present.
Even the unavailability of Henderson and John Egan (£4.5m) through ineligibility and injury didn’t have too much of a disruptive influence on a backline that had previously been unchanged all season, with Phil Jagielka (£4.2m) not troubled at centre-half until late on.
The big disclaimer is, of course, the Red Devils’ three-goal salvo in the final 20 minutes.
Brandon Williams‘ (£4.0m) well-hit strike only came about after the Blades had comfortably headed out a Daniel James (£6.2m) cross from the right and the fact that Solskjaer’s side had to rely on a rookie full-back to force their way back into the game said much about how quiet the hosts had kept the likes of Anthony Martial (£7.8m).
What followed was very un-Sheffield United-like, with the Blades capitulating and conceding two admittedly well-worked goals in the following seven minutes.
Perhaps it was the shock of conceding in the first place, fatigue setting in after 70 minutes of energy-sapping work or uncertainty in Egan’s absence (Jagielka a tad flat-footed for the visitors’ second goal) but whatever the reason, the Blades’ backline looked momentarily mortal.
Wilder said afterwards:
Can we forget about that little ten-minute period, please?! We just dropped off a touch, energy levels. Their first goal has come out of nothing from our point of view.
The old ‘2-0 is a dangerous scoreline’ quickly changed into ‘oops, we’re 3-2 down’.
And you’ve got to give them credit, just as much as we fought our way back at the death to get ourselves something out of the game.
It just switched a light when they got back into it at 2-1.
We can surely forgive them this brief lapse after their heroics of recent months – this was, quite remarkably, the first time they had conceded more than one goal in a league match since August.
With Henderson and possibly Egan back for the trip to Molineux, there is no reason to think that Raul Jimenez (£7.4m) and co. won’t have their work cut out in Gameweek 14.
Whether Mousset will be present in the West Midlands remains to be seen, with the Blades initially reporting a hamstring injury and Wilder later saying of his in-form striker:
He’s alright, he’s going to have a check and a scan.
Lundstram picked up his fourth yellow card of the season, meanwhile, so is now only a booking away from a one-match ban.
As for Solskjaer’s side, the final-quarter blitz masked another below-average away display.
A fortnight ago we wrote about United’s Jekyll-and-Hyde performances, with their most dismal displays reserved for recent away games against West Ham, Newcastle and Bournemouth.
This fixture was heading the same way for 70-odd minutes, with Martial in particular anonymous and verging on disinterested.
Marcus Rashford (£8.6m) and James had been similarly feeble up until United went 2-0 down, wasting what few positive situations the visitors had, but at least deserve credit for their roles in the comeback.
Even when Martial is not on his A-game, his presence allows for Rashford to prosper as a goal-facing winger rather than a back-to-goal target-man.
The England winger had fired over after some neat footwork just after half-time and it was he who provided the sumptuous cross for substitute Mason Greenwood (£4.3m) to tap in the Red Devils’ equaliser, before finishing off a neat United move involving Martial and James to put the visitors briefly ahead.
Asked why his side had taken a while to get going, Solksjaer said afterwards:
Very poor performance. We did play badly first half, we didn’t win any challenges, we didn’t stick to what we had planned.
Even though the big part of this game is very negative and you’re disappointed with it, to have the character to stick in and turn it round… was great. We’re disappointed that we don’t hold the lead.
I could have changed 11 players at half-time, apart from the keeper ‘cos David [de Gea] kept us in it.
Solskjaer added to MUTV:
It’s not something you can put your finger on here and now, but Sheffield United looked like they wanted it more than us and believed more in what they did than us.
Sometimes it’s little margins here and there but we never had a shot on target, or maybe had one, in the first half but that’s not acceptable and not good enough.
But the response after they went 2-0 up was fantastic.
Solskjaer has to perhaps take some flak for his initial set-up, with Phil Jones (£4.8m) drafted in and United reverting to a 3-4-3.
The much-maligned centre-half was culpable for the Blades’ opener and was then hauled off at the interval, with United looking better in a 4-2-3-1 after the break.
The Norwegian said:
We’re light in midfield because Scott [McTominay] is away. We could have started with Jones in [midfield] because he’s played there for England, but we decided at Sheffield United – we’ve played well in a back three this season, Chelsea away, Liverpool at home – we thought that was a good way.
Sometimes tactics go out of the window and today it was all about the desire, first half.
This was another away game without a clean sheet for the Red Devils, with only Spurs having recorded fewer shut-outs in the Premier League this season.
While interest in United’s defensive assets will be modest, there was a second successive start at left-back/wing-back for the £4.0m-rated Williams – despite Ashley Young‘s (£5.4m) return from suspension.
It’ll be interesting to monitor that situation now that Luke Shaw (£5.4m) is nearing full fitness, given how much we Fantasy managers have come to cherish a starting budget defender.
As for United’s other assets, they at least enjoy home comforts in three of the next four Gameweeks and those FPL bosses who own Rashford, Martial et al will be hopeful that the Red Devils’ decent home form can justify investment after some mostly iffy displays on the road.
Sheffield United XI (3-5-2): Moore; Basham (Robinson 83′), Jagielka, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick (Sharp 78′), Mousset (McBurnie 68′).
Manchester United XI (3-4-3): De Gea; Lindelof, Maguire, Jones (Lingard 46′); Wan-Bissaka, Pereira (Greenwood 73′), Fred, Williams; James, Martial (Tuanzebe 85′), Rashford.
Gameweek 13 – FPL Match Reports
- West Ham United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
- Arsenal 2-2 Southampton
- AFC Bournemouth 1-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Leicester City
- Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool
- Everton 0-2 Norwich City
- Watford 0-3 Burnley
- Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea
- Sheffield United 3-3 Manchester United
- Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle United
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