Manchester United take a must-win trip to Bramall Lane to encounter Premier League basement boys Sheffield United on Saturday evening.
Scott McTominay’s stoppage-time heroics inspired the Red Devils to a sensational 2-1 comeback win over Brentford on the stroke of the October international break.
A nail-biting victory at Old Trafford alleviated some pressure on under-fire manager Erik ten Hag. But the Dutchman is not off the hook yet amid an ongoing takeover saga.
Stranded in the Premier League mid-table, five points adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool, United will hope to capitalise on their players’ phenomenal form during the international break.
Marcus Rashford was on the scoresheet as England thumped Italy 3-1 at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday, securing a fourth consecutive European Championships appearance.
The 25-year-old’s offensive comrade Bruno Fernandes was equally impressive.
His haul of one goal and two assists in a brace of victories against Slovakia and Bosnia & Herzegovina played a crucial role in Portugal’s successful bid to join the Three Lions in Germany.
Fernandes’ outrageous exploits in the ongoing Euro 2024 qualifying campaign have not gone unnoticed, with the Man United captain registering 12 goal contributions.
With seven assists and ten big chances creative, he has been the most creative player in the current cycle and will hope to translate his stellar international form to the club level.
Saturday’s trip to Yorkshire is the perfect opportunity for Fernandes to add to his two-goal tally in the Premier League this term, with their hosts nailed to the bottom of the standings at the start of this round.
Despite only managing one point across the opening eight matchdays, manager Paul Heckingbottom is still in the Blades dugout.
However, it’s uncertain whether he’ll keep his job beyond this weekend, especially if he fails to slam the brakes on his team’s dreadful four-game losing league run.
Since a 1-0 opening-day home loss to Crystal Palace, Heckingbottom’s men have conceded at least two goals in all seven Premier League outings, facing 20+ shots in the last four on the trot.
The newcomers face the grave risk of becoming just the ninth side in Premier League history to capitulate multiple times in eight consecutive league matches within a single season.
But that’s the least of their problems. The Yorkshire strugglers have racked up an all-time joint-low one point after the first eight Premier League rounds, casting significant doubt on their top-flight credentials.
Man United’s visit to Bramall Lane cannot inspire much confidence around Heckingbottom’s camp, considering the Blades have only won two of their ten Premier League clashes against the Old Trafford outfit (D1, L7).
In addition to their dominant H2H record in the Premier League era, United can draw further confidence from winning their last nine league matches against newly promoted sides.
They’ve emerged victorious across their last six top-flight visits to the newcomers and could equal the club’s longest-ever such run with another success here.
Scoring should not be a problem for Ten Hag’s troops, given they’ve found the net on their last three competitive road trips, not to mention all ten Premier League fixtures against the Blades.
However, there’s no room for complacency. Following a narrow 1-0 triumph at Burnley on their last top-flight travel, Man United can win back-to-back away league games for the first time in 2023.
Chris Basham has joined George Baldock, Tom Davies, Ben Osborn and Max Lowe on the sidelines after a horror leg fracture against Fulham on the eve of the international break.
As for Man United, Luke Shaw, Lisandro Martinez, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Sergio Reguilon and Amad Diallo are still recovering from injuries, while Jadon Sancho remains out of the squad after having a fallout with Ten Hag.
Worryingly for the Dutchman, Casemiro picked up a slight injury problem during international duty and may have to sit out this game.
Sheffield United potential starting line-up:
(3-5-2): Wesley Foderingham; Anel Ahmedhodzic, Auston Trusty, Jack Robinson; Jayden Bogle, Gustavo Hamer, Vinicius Souza, James McAtee, Luke Thomas; Cameron Archer, Oli McBurnie.
Manchester United potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Andre Onana; Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Raphael Varane, Sofyan Amrabat; Christian Eriksen, Scott McTominay; Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Antony; Rasmus Hojlund.
We Say: Sheffield United 0-1 Manchester United
Man Utd cannot afford a slip-up against the worst-performing Premier League side, but we don’t expect this to be a walk in the park.
Given the home side’s massive scoring woes, one ball behind Wesley Foderingham’s back could seal the deal for the Red Devils.
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