Sheffield United put a huge dent in Manchester United’s Premier League title ambitions on Wednesday, beating Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s off-key side 2-1 at Old Trafford.
United knew they had to respond after Manchester City leapfrogged them at the summit with a 5-0 hammering of West Brom on Tuesday but they were well short of their best on a frustrating night.
The result leaves them on 40 points — one point behind City — but Pep Guardiola’s side now have a game in hand and are looking relentless.
United were sloppy in possession from the start at Old Trafford against the bottom-placed visitors, who had won just one league match in the entire campaign.
The home side dominated possession in the initial stages and Marcus Rashford had an early shot but they were short of ideas against the battling away team.
The Blades broke the deadlock midway through the first half when Kean Bryan rose to glance home John Fleck’s corner after David de Gea failed to punch clear.
Billy Sharp appeared to nudge the Spanish goalkeeper from behind but the goal was allowed to stand.
Manchester United had the ball in the net after half an hour’s play but Anthony Martial’s effort did not count because referee Peter Bankes had already blown his whistle for a foul by Harry Maguire on goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
United lacked urgency as the first period wore on, struggling to get behind Chris Wilder’s organised back line.
Bruno Fernandes fashioned half a chance for United when he ran beyond the last line of defence and hooked the ball back but Martial could not get enough purchase on the header.
The home side tried to step up a gear at the start of the second half but still lacked sharpness in their passing, with Rashford off the pace.
Mason Greenwood, who scored in United’s FA Cup win against Liverpool on Sunday, snatched at a chance after a fine through ball from Fernandes.
United were now showing more urgency but David McGoldrick went close to doubling Sheffield United’s lead with a clever effort with the outside of his right foot.
Solskjaer’s men were level in the 64th minute when an outswinging corner from Alex Telles was met with a thumping header by Maguire past the diving Ramsdale.
Edinson Cavani replaced Greenwood moments later as United looked to turn the screw.
But Sheffield United were back in front again in the 74th minute when Manchester United failed to clear and Oliver Burke’s strike took a wicked deflection off Axel Tuanzebe and went in off the underside of the bar.
Solskjaer threw on Luke Shaw and Donny van de Beek as United desperately sought an equaliser but they had to face the intense frustration of three dropped points.