Bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United caused a stunning upset with a Premier League victory over title-chasing Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side needed three points to regain top spot from rivals Manchester City but were lacklustre for large periods of the contest as the away side picked up only their second win of the season.
The Blades took a shock first-half lead through Kean Bryan’s flicked header, which went in off the far post following John Fleck’s corner.
Anthony Martial had a goal ruled out as Harry Maguire was adjudged to have fouled Aaron Ramsdale, but the United skipper headed in the leveller just past the hour mark.
The visitors responded with 16 minutes remaining as Manchester United failed to clear and substitute Oliver Burke side-footed in via a deflection off Axel Tuanzebe for their first win over the home side since the opening day of the newly formed Premier League in 1992.
“It’s a long time to wait for a win at Old Trafford and it’s a special result, and a special performance,” said Blades boss Chris Wilder.
“I’m not saying an incredible escape is on but I want to show what we are about.”
Wilder’s side remain bottom, 10 points off safety, while Manchester United remain second.
Manchester United’s luck runs out
On seven previous occasions this season, Solskjaer’s United had come from behind to win a league game and they looked on course to repeat the trick when Maguire headed in against his old club.
But recovering a deficit time and time again is unsustainable throughout a season and their luck finally ran out.
Unbeaten away from home this season, the Red Devils have dragged themselves into a surprise title challenge, with this their first defeat in 13 games since they lost at Old Trafford against Arsenal in November.
But it is their home form that is causing them the most harm – this is a fourth defeat at Old Trafford this season, following that loss to the Gunners, a hammering by Tottenham and a loss to Crystal Palace in their opening game.
And this damaging result will be a reality check for Solskjaer and his team, who were desperately poor throughout.
They failed to exert any real pressure on the Sheffield United backline and talisman Bruno Fernandes, so often the hero, has now hit a slump and gone four straight league games without a goal or an assist.
Marcus Rashford dragged an effort wide from the edge of the area early on and saw a long-range free-kick gathered by Aaron Ramsdale.
Mason Greenwood’s 25-yard drive straight was straight at the goalkeeper and Alex Telles’ shot looped on to the roof of the net but the strikes were all from long range and saves you would expect the keeper to make.
Edinson Cavani, impressive since joining on a free transfer last summer, was sent on after 66 minutes as the hosts chased a winner but ended up conceding.
With fellow title-chasers Leicester held to a 1-1 draw at Everton, United’s missed opportunity means Manchester City are in the ascendancy, a point clear at the top with a game in hand.
Stunning triumph for Blades
Cast adrift at the bottom, Sheffield United were 12-1 outsiders to win this game, having previously collected three points just once this season against Newcastle, but they battled to a second victory which they fully deserved.
Their in-form hosts may have felt this was a foregone conclusion before kick-off, but Sheffield United were well up for the job.
They were well organised and snapped into every tackle, nullifying the threats of Fernandes and Paul Pogba, while being urged on by manager Wilder from the touchline.
The three centre-backs – Chris Basham, Ethan Ampadu and 38-year-old Phil Jagielka – contributed 18 clearances between them, highlighting how they snuffed out any threat of an attack from the hosts.
They had few chances, Billy Sharp running clear and firing in a low shot that was kept out by David de Gea, the only save the home goalkeeper had to make in the contest.
The Spaniard was beaten to the ball by Bryan for the opener and his weak clearance in the second half was recycled by John Lundstram, laying the ball off for Burke to finish via Tuanzebe’s thigh and the crossbar.
With 18 games still remaining, this will give the South Yorkshire side a boost as they aim for the unlikeliest of survival missions.
‘No big inquest’ – what they said
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “It wasn’t to be. The second goal we conceded is so poor, so sloppy. Easy. We stopped getting out to the ball – three or four bad decisions which is out of character.
“There will be no big inquest. There have been so many odd results this season but with the world as it is we have been the most consistent team – it hit us today.”
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: “There’s not been many moments for us this season. The players are jumping about celebrating and they have every right to. It’s been a tough old season but I’ll bring them back down to earth tomorrow. It’s a great result and I’m delighted for the players because they’ve been through a lot.”
Bryan and Burke off the mark – the stats
- Manchester United have lost four of their 10 Premier League home games this season, their most in a single campaign since 2013-14 under David Moyes (6) and Ryan Giggs (1).
- Sheffield United are only the third side from Yorkshire to win at Old Trafford in any competition during the Premier League era, after Leeds United in January 2010 (FA Cup) and York City in September 1996 (League Cup).
- Manchester United have lost two of their past four Premier League home games against the side starting the day bottom of the table, one more loss than in their other 21 such matches in the competition (W16 D4 L1).
- Since 2003-04, Sheffield United are just the fourth side to have as few as five shots in a Premier League game at Old Trafford against Manchester United and win, after Burnley (January 2020), Crystal Palace (August 2019) and Swansea (August 2014) – all in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.
- Since the start of last season, no Premier League side has conceded more league goals from corners than Manchester United (14, level with Brighton & Chelsea).
- At the age of 38 years and 163 days, Phil Jagielka was the oldest outfield player to start a Premier League match at Old Trafford against Manchester United since Richard Gough in February 2001 for Everton (38y 304d).
- Harry Maguire’s equaliser for Manchester United was his first in the Premier League at Old Trafford, with each of his five goals in the competition before this coming away from home.
- Sheffield United pair Kean Bryan and Oliver Burke are the first Premier League players to both net their first goals in the competition in the same match against Manchester United since September 2014 – Esteban Cambiasso and Jamie Vardy for Leicester.
Manchester United will look to get back to winning ways when they travel to Arsenal in the league on Saturday (17:30 GMT), while Sheffield United face another tough match, against leaders Manchester City, on the same day (15:00).
- 1de Gea
- 38TuanzebeBooked at 45minsSubstituted forvan de Beekat 83′minutes
- 27TellesSubstituted forShawat 82′minutes
- 11GreenwoodSubstituted forCavaniat 66′minutes
- 18Bruno Fernandes
- 34van de Beek
- 7LundstramBooked at 40mins
- 29BryanSubstituted forBogleat 53′minutes
- 17McGoldrickSubstituted forBrewsterat 80′minutes
- 10SharpSubstituted forBurkeat 70′minutes
Match ends, Manchester United 1, Sheffield United 2.
Second Half ends, Manchester United 1, Sheffield United 2.
Foul by Edinson Cavani (Manchester United).
George Baldock (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Phil Jagielka.
Attempt blocked. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Luke Shaw.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Phil Jagielka.
Harry Maguire (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Oliver Burke (Sheffield United).
Substitution, Manchester United. Donny van de Beek replaces Axel Tuanzebe.
Substitution, Manchester United. Luke Shaw replaces Alex Telles.
Attempt missed. Edinson Cavani (Manchester United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.
Substitution, Sheffield United. Rhian Brewster replaces David McGoldrick.
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Oliver Norwood (Sheffield United).
Attempt missed. Paul Pogba (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Alex Telles with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by John Lundstram.
Attempt blocked. Alex Telles (Manchester United) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Goal! Manchester United 1, Sheffield United 2. Oliver Burke (Sheffield United) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by John Lundstram.
Attempt blocked. Oliver Burke (Sheffield United) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by John Lundstram.