Chris Wilder’s rock-bottom side stunned title-chasing Manchester United to grab a first ever Premier League victory at Old Trafford as they triumphed 2-1.
It was widely expected that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men would kick on from their FA Cup defeat of Liverpool at the weekend and return to the Premier League summit with a routine win over a struggling Sheffield United side.
Indeed, if the opening exchanges were anything to go by it seemed that the game’s pre-match script was being followed as Manchester United dominated the ball and had the first real chance of the night when Marcus Rashford’s low shot fizzed just wide of the post.
The hosts continued to hold a monopoly over the ball and after 15 minutes they had already had 83 per cent possession, but it counted for nothing as they failed to register a single effort on target with the Blades containing them well.
However, when the visitors did eventually get chance to ease into a passing rhythm they looked dangerous as some neat interplay in the midfield culminated in a sublime John Fleck pass putting through Billy Sharp, who forced a decent save out of David De Gea but should really have given the Spaniard no chance.
Sheffield United’s tails were up though as they won a corner on the right-hand side.
Fleck’s in-swinging corner was missed by three Manchester United players before former Manchester City youth player, Kean Bryan rose brilliantly to glance the ball into the corner of the net to put the Blades ahead.
The Blades’ endeavour to get forward had been rewarded but there was still a whole hour and more to play at Old Trafford and if we have learned anything about Solskjaer’s side this season it is that they like a comeback.
However, David McGoldrick almost got in behind again five minutes later to put a few more wrinkles in Solskjaer’s frown.
As anticipated the hosts looked to hit back and for a brief moment it seemed Anthony Martial had equalised after Aaron Ramsdale had spilled a header but referee Peter Bankes adjudged that former Blade Harry Maguire’s charge into the Sheffield United keeper warranted a foul.
The hosts looked far more inventive after the break with Mason Greenwood going close before Rashford’s free-kick forced a save out of Ramsdale.
With the Blades under siege, Manchester United’s pressure paid as Alex Telles’ corner was powerfully headed home by Maguire with Ramsdale helpless to stop it.
At this point, the expectation was for the hosts to go on and grab a winner but Wilder’s side refused to submit to that particular narrative.
The Blades continued to be positive going forward and some neat play almost bore fruit as Oliver Norwood slipped through George Baldock in the penalty area whose centre caused confusion between Maguire and De Gea, with the latter eventually half-clearing.
It was only as far as John Lundstram, however, who lurked on the right edge of the box and immediately threaded a pass through to Oliver Burke whose tame shot was blocked by Axel Tuanzebe before it was recycled.
The ball was back with Lundstram who went with the same approach of squaring the ball to Burke but this time his strike had a little more venom and it ricocheted off Tuanzebe before going into the back of the net via the crossbar.
A stroke of luck, perhaps, but it was about time some of it went the way of the Blades.
They managed to hold out brilliantly against a relentless Manchester United attack, thereafter, to secure one of the most remarkable results of recent times and undoubtedly produce the shock of the season.
Speaking to the club, Wilder described the victory as: “A special night for us.
“It was a proper Sheffield United performance.”
Manchester United: de Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Tuanzebe (Van de Beek 82’), Magure, Telles (Shaw 82’), Pogba, Matic, Greenwood (Cavani 66’), Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, Martial. Subs not used: Lindelof, Mata, Fred, James, Henderson, McTominay.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale, Basham, Jagielka, Ampadu, Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Bryan (Bogle 53’), McGoldrick (Brewster 80’), Sharp (Burke 70’). Subs not used: Mousset, Lowe, Foderingham.
Referee: Peter Bankes
Bookings: Manchester United: Tuanzebe
Sheffield United: Lundstram
Scorers: Manchester United: Harry Maguire (64’)
Sheffield United: Kean Bryan (23’), Oliver Burke (74’)
HT Score: 0-1
FT Score: 1-2
Man of the Match: Phil Jagielka (Sheffield United)