Solskjaer fumes despite United fightback

Sheffield United's Oli McBurnie beating Manchester United defender Harry Maguire to the ball to make it 3-3 in the 90th minute in their English Premier League match at Bramall Lane on Sunday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Sheffield United's Oli McBurnie beating Manchester United defender Harry Maguire to the ball to make it 3-3 in the 90th minute in their English Premier League match at Bramall Lane on Sunday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Such was Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's anger at his side's sloppy first-half display at Sheffield United on Sunday that he "could have changed every player at half-time, apart from the goalkeeper".

In reality, only Phil Jones, whose blunder on his first Premier League start this season led to John Fleck's opener, was hauled off at the break.

That did not stop United from conceding another goal through Lys Mousset, who went off with a hamstring injury. The visitors then battled back to score three goals in seven minutes at Bramall Lane.

Strikes from Brandon Williams, his first for the club, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford turned the match on its head, putting the Red Devils on course for just their second away league win this term.

The home side were not done, though, with Oli McBurnie levelling just before full time, leaving Solskjaer with mixed emotions.

Referencing the 4-0 rout at Everton last term, the Norwegian said: "It was a very poor performance. I'm thinking back to (April) because that team gave up and this team didn't.

"So when we turned it round, it's a great answer to get from the boys. We did play badly in the first half, we didn't win any challenges.

"But to be able to shake those fears away... when you're 2-0 down and don't give up is pleasing."

All three United scorers were academy products, and it was the first time they had two teenagers net in a top-flight match since October 2005, giving him more cause to be optimistic than pessimistic.

Said Solskjaer, who coached the United reserves side for 21/2 years till 2010: "The way they've turned it round, it changes so much in players' heads, in young players' heads. Remember these boys are young.

"When they get the belief after the first goal, suddenly we're on the front foot and the boys are trying things that lead the fear away.

"Sometimes football is beyond tactics. The difference in the team this year compared to last is huge. They never give in.

"Last year, we would have gone four or five down instead of coming back. We would not have been able to come back."

But despite Solskjaer's insistence that his team were maturing, pundit Graeme Souness felt their second-half showing could not make up for not being at the races.

Warning ninth-place United that they cannot afford to keep giving teams a head start, he told Sky Sports: "The vast majority of times, when they go 2-0 down, they're not getting back into the game.

"They turned up like a team of big heads and not having to go to war. No one will come to this stadium and get a result unless they're prepared to dig in."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2019, with the headline 'Solskjaer fumes despite United fightback'. Print Edition | Subscribe