Diogo Dalot’s stunning long-range strike earned Manchester United a hard-fought win at Sheffield United, who remain bottom of the Premier League.
It was an emotional evening for the visitors, with news breaking earlier in the day that club legend Sir Bobby Charlton had died at the age of 86, and captain Bruno Fernandes laid a wreath on the Bramall Lane pitch before kick-off.
Perhaps understandably, Man Utd started the game slowly but, following on from his dramatic double against Brentford before the international break, Scott McTominay again found the net to put the visitors ahead in the first half.
But the midfielder’s celebrations were short-lived as his handball gifted the hosts a penalty just minutes later – a chance that was emphatically taken by Oli McBurnie.
Both Fernandes and Sofyan Amrabat hit the woodwork as Man Utd sought to re-establish their lead, but it was Dalot whose shot from distance sealed the three points, slipping past the hands of Wes Foderingham as the Blades’ run of winless Premier League games extended to nine.
Sheffield United: Foderingham (6), Bogle (6), Trusty (6), Robinson (6), Thomas (6), Souza (6), Norwood (6), Hamer (6), McAtee (7), Archer (7), McBurnie (7).
Subs: Brewster (6), Osborn (6), Traore (n/a).
Man Utd: Onana (7), Dalot (8), Maguire (8), Evans (7), Lindelof (7), McTominay (7), Amrabat (7), Antony (7), Fernandes (8), Rashford (6), Hojlund (6).
Subs: Martial (6), Eriksen (6), Garnacho (6), Varane (n/a), Mount (n/a).
Player of the match: Harry Maguire.
How Onana and Maguire helped Man Utd to victory
After a run of five defeats in seven games earlier this season, Man Utd have now won four of their last six as they look to belatedly get their campaign up and running.
The 2-1 win over Brentford before the international break felt like a turning point, and McTominay continued his hot streak by scuffing in a volley against the run of play to give Man Utd the lead.
- Sheffield United: James McAtee and Jack Robinson came in for Anel Ahmedhodzic and Chris Basham
- Man Utd: Antony came in for Mason Mount, who dropped to the bench, while Scott McTominay replaced the injured Casemiro
Andre Onana had earlier made impressive saves to deny McBurnie and Cameron Archer, and the goalkeeper – who has been at fault for several goals already during his fledgling Man Utd career – went on to enjoy an encouraging outing.
However, Onana could do nothing about Sheffield United’s goal, which came just six minutes after McTominay had scored at the other end.
The Scotland international lazily hung out an arm to block a cross, with McBurnie burying the spot kick to score his first Premier League goal of the season.
Onana was called upon to to keep out Oliver Norwood and Rhian Brewster’s efforts from distance, while Foderingham denied Rasmus Hojlund his first Premier League strike.
Harry Maguire – who was named player of the match against his former club – was perhaps fortunate to avoid punishment for a push on James McAtee in the box, but the visitors gradually took control of the second half.
Fernandes clipped the bar with a free-kick and Amrabat thumped a post but it was Dalot who broke the hosts’ resistance with a bending effort that Foderingham may feel he could have kept out.
Ten Hag: We remembered Charlton in right way
Ten Hag believed it was important Man Utd paid tribute to Charlton in the correct way, telling Sky Sports: “Fantastic. We have to pay our big goodbye and remember Bobby Charlton because what he did was magnificent.
“He was outstanding on the pitch and off it. He was a big personality. We had to remember Bobby Charlton and we did it in a decent way.”
Ten Hag was also impressed by the performance of Maguire, who has struggled to command a place in the manager’s team since the Dutchman’s appointment last summer.
“It was deserved,” Ten Hag said of Maguire’s player-of-the-match award. “He played a very good game.
“He showed personality, played very good football and read the game really well.
“I’m happy for him and his performance, but also with our win.”
Analysis: Man Utd show grit to continue momentum
Sky Sports football journalist Joe Shread:
Both Maguire and Ten Hag admitted after the game that Man Utd were not at their best but they did what they had to do – beat the Premier League’s worst side and build on the momentum they started to generate before the international break.
Anything other than three points at Bramall Lane would have seen Man Utd return to square one ahead of a vital week, which sees them return to their faltering Champions League campaign against Copenhagen on Tuesday and face Premier League champions at Manchester City on Sunday.
But instead Ten Hag can reflect on the grit his side showed, wrestling control of an awkward game from their hosts and eventually showing their superior quality through Dalot’s bending strike.
The performances of McTominay and Maguire – so often maligned in recent seasons – were also a welcome boost for a side that was, until recently, desperately in need of a spark to ignite their season.
Backing up that progress – and drawing more from the subdued Marcus Rashford – is now essential over the coming weeks.
Heckingbottom: Injuries are crippling
Paul Heckingbottom saw McBurnie limp off early in the second half to add to Sheffield United’s mounting injury problems, and the manager told Sky Sports: “It’s crippling. It’s not ideal.
“It’s something we have to look into, whether it’s about money, personnel or how we manage players.”
The Blades remain without a win after returning to the top flight this season and Heckingbottom said: “The margins have been so fine for us in so many games. We’ve been close in too many to not have a victory yet.
“We’ve got to build on that performance. We had to change the shape after the injuries we’ve suffered but it’s an opportunity for other players.
“I thought we adapted really well and it made us look dangerous. We defended very well so it’s frustrating, but it’s a tough league. We have to enjoy the challenge and make sure we’re better next week.”
Opta stats: Sheff Utd repeat unwanted record
- Scott McTominay was the fifth different Manchester United player to both score and concede a penalty in the same Premier League game, and the first since Bruno Fernandes against Brighton in September 2020.
- Manchester United have recorded successive Premier League away wins for the first time since December 2022, while they have now won each of their last seven away league games against newly-promoted sides.
- Sheffield United are only the fourth side in Premier League history to register just one point in their opening nine games to begin a season (D1 L8), after Manchester City in 1995/96, Sheffield Wednesday in 1999/00 and Sheffield United in 2020/21, with all three previous sides suffering relegation.
- Sheffield United’s Oli McBurnie scored his first Premier League goal since December 2020 against Leicester, with what was his first penalty in the competition. Indeed, seven of his eight goals in the Premier League have come at Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United are back in Premier League action next Saturday when they travel to Arsenal; kick-off 3pm.
Meanwhile, Man Utd are in Champions League action on Tuesday when they host FC Copenhagen at Old Trafford; kick-off 8pm.
Their next Premier League assignment is a huge game against rivals Man City, also at Old Trafford on Sunday October 29, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 3.30pm.