Sheffield United aims to end a four-match losing streak in the Premier League this Saturday when they take on Manchester United at Bramall Lane.
During their recent struggles, they have conceded two or more goals in each of the last seven league matches, totalling 21 goals against them. This alarming defensive trend, conceding multiple goals in eight consecutive games within a single Premier League season, has only occurred eight times before, with the most recent instance being West Brom in February 2021. Interestingly, the Baggies managed to halt this sequence with a 1-1 draw against Manchester United.
Meanwhile, following their recent victory at Burnley, Manchester United has the opportunity to secure back-to-back away league wins for the first time since defeating Fulham and Wolves around the time of the previous FIFA World Cup.
The Blades faced another setback recently when Tom Davies sustained an injury in training, ruling him out for several months. This adds to the injury concerns, with John Egan and Chris Basham already sidelined.
On a positive note, Paul Heckingbottom revealed in his pre-match press conference that Ben Osborn is closing in on a return to fitness, and the recoveries of John Fleck and Rhian Brewster progressed as they featured for the development team last week.
Manchester United are optimistic that the international break provided relief for their defensive injury crisis, as Sergio Reguilón and Raphaël Varane are nearing returns. Unfortunately, Lisandro Martínez and Aaron Wan-Bissaka continue to be sidelined with long-term injuries.
Paul Heckingbottom re-signed James McAtee on loan because he can provide that X-factor. But so far he’s not shown it.
It’s highly likely the away side will dominate the ball on Saturday, and if the Blades can stand firm at the back that could force Erik ten Hag’s team into committing more bodies forward from the back. And with that comes creating counterattacking opportunities.
We have already seen the likes of Wolves and even Burnley cause Man United huge problems at the back because they had ball carriers that were willing to run at the Red Devils defence. McAtee can provide that same outlet for Heckingbottom’s team.
The Manchester City loanee has recorded the joint-most progressive carries for the Blades (eight), whilst he has registered seven shot-creating actions [FBref] having only played an average of 48 minutes per game.
Man United’s captain Bruno Fernandes will be their primary creative force. In the Premier League this season, only James Maddison of Tottenham has surpassed Fernandes in combined shots and chances created, with Fernandes amassing 47 (25 shots, 22 chances created – FBref).
Marcus Rashford, another key attacking player, aims to build on his form highlighted by an impressive breakaway goal in England’s Euro 2024 qualification win against Italy. Rashford boasts six goal involvements in four Premier League appearances against Sheffield United, contributing three goals and three assists [FBref], with all three goals occurring at Bramall Lane.
Historically, Sheffield United has struggled to secure points against Manchester United, winning only two of their 10 Premier League encounters (with one draw and seven losses). However, the Red Devils have maintained an unbeaten record in their last six visits to Bramall Lane, securing five wins and one draw since their last defeat, a 2-1 loss in the FA Cup back in February 1993 [Opta].
Opta’s supercomputer gives the Blades a 20% chance of winning compared to Man United’s 50% chance.