- Under 2.5 goals were scored in 80% of Sheffield United’s away matches this season.
- The Blades conceded one or fewer goals in 11 of their 15 away games this term.
- Man Utd kept a clean sheet in six of their last seven home fixtures.
- Man Utd are on an 11-match unbeaten run.
United re-start with a point
Manchester United return to Old Trafford for the first time since March 8 when they host Sheffield United at the Theatre of Dreams on Wednesday, in what could prove to be a crunch fixture in the race to secure Champions League qualification this term.
United battled their way to a well-earned point at Spurs in their first game back after the Premier League’s resumption last week, earning a share of the spoils through a late, but deserved, Bruno Fernandes spot-kick equalizer.
Substitute Paul Pogba’s second-half introduction was key, and the Frenchman, whose quick feet won United’s penalty, is line to start on Wednesday is place of either Fred or Scott McTominay.
While the point United picked up in North London should prove useful in the medium term, Chelsea’s win at Aston Villa means a gap of five points has been opened up between the 4th placed Blues and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in 5th, while Wolves’ triumph West Ham drew them level with the Red Devils just one place further down.
Sheffield United limp back into action
Sheffield United’s re-start stutter continued on Sunday when they were ousted 3-0 by Newcastle at St. James’ Park, just days after they dropped more points at Aston Villa after a 0-0 stalemate.
The Blades had been holding their own in the North East before defender John Egan was given his marching orders in the second half, but even with 10-men, their capitulation made for a worrying watch.
After their latest reverse on the road, Sheffield United’s record reads one win from six on their travels, with the club’s failure to register in four of those matches highlighting their continued lack of attacking thrust as the visiting team.
Interestingly, only four Premier League clubs have scored fewer goals away from home than the Blades in 2019/20 (13 in 15 games).
Few goals expected at Old Trafford
With key defender John Egan absent through suspension, on loan first choice stopper Dean Henderson unable to play against his parent club, and poor form to contend with, things already looked stacked against Sheffield United this week.
The Blades however, remain one of the Premier League’s most tactically and defensively robust outfits under Chris Wilder, especially in away fixtures, and Man Utd won’t find it easy to open them up on Wednesday, even with two of the most important members of their backline missing.
Remarkably, under 2.5 goals were scored in a huge 80% of Sheffield United’s Premier League away assignments since August, and on Wednesday, they face a Man Utd team that tend to struggle to create when facing deep-lying defensive blocks.
With a frontline that excels as a counter-punching unit, Solskjaer’s charges could be frustrated for large periods on Wednesday when they look for holes in the Blades’ water-tight rearguard – and that in turn makes the under 2.5 goals market a smart selection to make.
Our correct score prediction tips the hosts to eventually squeeze out a narrow 1-0 victory however. Unbeaten in 11 games now with an impressive six clean sheets in their last seven at Old Trafford, United should have enough momentum to make home advantage count this week.
The Blades have conceded one or fewer goals in 11 out of 15 away matches in 2019/20 however, and should make their hosts work hard for their victory.
Key Battle – Bruno Fernandes vs Oliver Norwood
Portuguese midfield maestro Bruno Fernandes picked up where he left off before the break last Friday with another virtuoso performance for United at Spurs.
The 25-year-old’s inventive passing and incredibly high-workrate should prove a potent combination again on Wednesday, and Bruno will be aiming to add to his already impressive Premier League numbers, which currently stand at three goals and three assists in six starts.
Former Man Utd academy starlet Oliver Norwood is certain to be deployed as the deepest of a midfield three for the Blades at Old Trafford – a position that should see him filling the same spaces Bruno likes to investigate.
While Norwood is more renowned for his passing than his tackling skills, the 29-year-old will probably have to draw from his defensive skill-set more often that he is used to this week.
Manchester United vs Sheffield United team news
Paul Pogba’s superb cameo against Spurs last week should ensure that he comes into United’s starting XI this week, while Mason Greenwood could also be drafted in for the ineffectual Daniel James.
In terms of injuries elsewhere, United have few to contend with, though Solskjaer might choose to freshen up his team a little to keep energy levels high.
Victor Lindelof, who came off with a niggle against Spurs, is the Norwegian’s one major worry.
Manchester United predicted line-up: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Pogba, Fernandes, Greenwood, Rashford, Martial
Chris Wilder will have to replace John Egan and Dean Henderson for the Blades’ trip to Old Trafford, who miss out through suspension and loan regulations respectively.
Elsewhere, Sheffield United are expected to largely keep faith with the same players who featured against Newcastle.
Sheffield United predicted line-up: Moore, Basham, Jagielka, O’Connell, Baldock, Stevens, Norwood, Lundstrum, Fleck, McBurnie, Mousset.