Fernandes rescues Manchester United in frantic win over Sheffield United

Estimated read time 4 min read

With 81 minutes gone Bruno Fernandes collected a Kobbie Mainoo pass and with a swish of his left foot fired a laser past Wes Foderingham and Manchester United were 3-2 ahead. The question now was could they, at last, hang on to a lead.

This was answered emphatically by Rasmus Højlund, whose strike as the end of regulation time neared gave Erik ten Hag’s team security and was the best way to close before a watching Jason Wilcox, the new technical director, who will lead the football department until Dan Ashworth joins from Newcastle.

The win, though, was the same weary tale of United’s season: bright patches in attack, naive play at the back which twice allowed Sheffield United to take the lead – through Jayden Bogle and Ben Brereton Díaz, these goals answered by Harry Maguire and a Fernandes penalty. Victory does quieten – for a day or so, anyway – the incessant noise around a United campaign that has been a series of stumbles interrupted by the odd convincing display.

As Ten Hag said: “Many positives [including] the resilience to fight back after losing two times. But also there were negatives. We gave it away [goals], it can’t happen, unacceptable. Have you seen some panic [when falling behind]? Not at all, we were very composed. I’m happy with the win and we need to move on.”

Ten Hag’s men began the hunt for a first three points in six weeks without the injured Marcus Rashford and Diogo Dalot tingling Foderingham’s fingers with a 20-yard sighter.

In the wake of the scare Coventry gave his team in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final the Dutchman stressed how they do the difficult thing expertly: put themselves in a winning position. The problem, of course, is not being able to close the deal, a function of being far too open.

Twice the Blades illustrated this faultline as Cameron Archer took aim unattended, then, moments later, the No 10 fed Gustavo Hamer who swept the ball to Brereton Díaz and a low shot was clutched by André Onana.

A prevailing criticism of Ten Hag is that his side show scant pattern of play. Not tonight. Camped inside the visitor’s half, United’s ball retention weaved effective patterns, one move accumulating passes before Alejandro Garnacho sped into the area and blazed at goal, Foderingham diving left and saving smartly.

Then a rare sight – the starved-of-service Højlund running in behind. Christian Eriksen skipped forward and released his fellow Dane, whose pace took him clear, the effort sharp, but too close to Foderingham who, again, repelled.

Rasmus Højlund of Manchester United scores the 4-2 goal during the Premier League match of against Sheffield United.View image in fullscreen

Now, though, disaster for Ten Hag’s men and unadulterated joy for Chris Wilder’s. Intended for Dalot, Onana hit a simple pass straight to Bogle, who skated in and smashed home. “How shit must you be, we’re winning away” sang the delighted Blades congregation.

The emotion lasted seven minutes as United levelled with the sweetest of equalisers: Garnacho dinked in from the left and Maguire stooped and flicked a header that was dainty in touch and lethal in aim as he beat Foderingham to his left.

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Sheffield United’s opener came as Manchester United enjoyed 80% of the ball. Their second came with the mark at 79%, five minutes into the second half, and was woeful from the home team. A clumsy Dalot touch gave the ball to Brereton Díaz, he found Hamer who slid it left to Ben Osborn. Brereton Díaz had rushed forward and, unmarked, got on the end of the cross from close range.

Immediately, Ten Hag removed Antony for Amad Diallo, a move that drew jeers from the faithful who surely believed the youngster should have started. It may have unsettled Wilder’s team as ­redemption ­beckoned for Dalot: the Portuguese’s curving run took him clear as he controlled a flighted ball but, too ponderous, Auston Trusty caught him.

Then, in a quasi-farcical moment, Dalot did score, at a corner, but Michael Salisbury had blown for a penalty for Trusty manhandling Maguire. Despite protests, the decision remained, and Fernandes stepped up and rifled the spot-kick high and in, to Foderingham’s right, and that was 2-2.

United’s grandstand finish featured Fernandes’s 25-yard peach and Højlund scoring a classic poacher’s goal – his first since 18 February: a telling snapshot of United’s ills.

If Wilder’s side lose to Newcastle on Saturday they are relegated. “The ball goes in the back of our net too easy,” he said. The late introduction of the striker Ethan Wheatley, 18, was United’s 250th academy product to play for the first team.

Source: theguardian.com

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