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Man United go from ridiculous to the sublime… and almost back again

T

he one thing you can count on from this Manchester United side is their inconsistency.

As so often this season, United conceded a soft goal early on to make life hard for themselves. On this occasion, Dean Henderson – preferred in goal to David de Gea – made a mess of a clearance to allow David McGoldrick to finish after five minutes.

Given United don’t seem to start playing these days until the go behind, it was no surprise to see them turn on the style from that moment on. The gloves came off – literally, in Paul Pogba’s case – as the Blades’ opener seemed to free up the Red Devils.

Marcus Rashford was awarded Fifa’s Fair Play award at The Best ceremony shortly before kick-off, and controlled a long ball from Victor Lindelof with a superb first touch before lashing the ball past Aaron Ramsdale after 26 minutes.

Anthony Martial then pounced on a Pogba pass over the top, beating Ramsdale to the ball before toe-poking home seven minutes later.

United went into the break 2-1 up, and had a two-goal advantage within six minutes of the restart. Pogba span out of defence beautifully, with Bruno Fernandes flicking the ball on to Mason Greenwood. The young forward was crunched by Phil Jagielka, though referee Michael Oliver let play continue for Rashford to finish underneath an unconvincing Ramsdale.

From there, the game seemed won as Fernandes and Pogba turned on the style – but this United team is never short of drama.

Lindelof’s struggles in the air were shown up again as his header bounced off McGoldrick and nestled in the corner for a soft goal, and Henderson had to be alert with a smart late save to dent Lys Mousset an equaliser.

Still, United held on for a win which sends them sixth – and winning their game in hand would take them just two points behind leaders Liverpool.

United have made a habit of coming from behind to win away from home, and boast a perfect record with six victories from six on the road this season.

The real problem for United has been their Old Trafford form, with just five points from a possible 18.

With the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea, Leicester and Man City dropping points this week, there is a growing sense that United could be genuine challengers to Liverpool in such a disjointed season.

With Fernandes, Pogba, Greenwood, Rashford and Martial all playing at Bramall Lane, there was enough attacking quality to mask over United’s defensive errors.

Still, Solskjaer will know that if the Red Devils are to mount a credible title pursuit, they must stop making life so difficult for themselves.


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