Blades make their point to turn up heat on Solskjaer
Sheffield Utd 3 Man Utd 3
From the ridiculous to the sublime, then back to the ridiculous again. For the best part of 72 minutes, this threatened to be the nadir of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United tenure to date, as his side's diabolical display was expertly punished by an impressive Sheffield United.
Then came three goals in the space of seven minutes, all scored by graduates from the club's storied academy, to complete a quite remarkable comeback that would not have looked out of place in Solskjaer's playing days. There was just one problem, though: back then, they held on to win.
Oli McBurnie's late equaliser had to be confirmed by VAR, having come down onto his right boot off his shoulder. But once the lengthy check had been completed, Bramall Lane erupted to celebrate the point that Chris Wilder's side deserved. For all but seven minutes, they were brilliant.
Solskjaer, on the other hand, will cling to those seven minutes and his side's astonishing comeback as the one positive to take from an otherwise dismal performance. Brandon Williams opened his account, Mason Greenwood scored his first Premier League goal to level, then Marcus Rashford completed the turnaround.
It was a fleeting vision of Solskjaer's ideal: a vibrant, flowing United devastating their opponents with young, homegrown players inflicting the wounds. Whether he will be given the time to fully realise that vision remains to be seen. There is a spectre haunting Old Trafford and Solskjaer would have liked to have quickly exorcise the ghost at his feast.
Instead, another disappointing display focuses attention on Mauricio Pochettino's availability.
The club's stance is unlikely to change in the short term but it does add a new sense of dread to these poor results, which are surely happening far too often for Ed Woodward and the Glazer family's liking.
Still, United must be given credit for their comeback. Any sort of positive had appeared unlikely when the irrepressible John Fleck and tireless Lys Mousset sent Sheffield United into a two-goal lead. Moussett was particularly devastating, bustling Phil Jones off the ball and cutting inside to set up Fleck's opener.
Jones had a torrid afternoon. These were the first Premier League minutes that he was trusted to play this season.
They were chaotic, to say the least. One early 50-50 contest with Oliver Norwood in midfield sent a low sonic boom around Bramall Lane, of the kind that only a cumbersome centre-half's clumsy challenge can make.
He was mercifully replaced at half time but Moussett simply focused his attentions on United's other flagging centre-halves, including the Blades old boy Harry Maguire.
Fleck returned the favour to Moussett at the start of the second half, allowing the Frenchman to penetrate acres of room on the edge of United's penalty area and fire past David de Gea.
Moussett had appeared to tweak a muscle in the opening stages of the game and his departure on 68 minutes precipitated Sheffield United's collapse.
It came unexpectedly at first through Williams, who capitalised on Chris Basham's misplaced header on a Daniel James cross to fire low and into the far corner. Greenwood was immediately introduced and soon levelled. Rashford's speculative cross was whipped around the face of the Blades backline and his fellow academy product stooped low to toe-poke the ball past goalkeeper Simon Moore.
Moore was deputising for Dean Henderson, another United youngster unable to play against his parent club.
Remarkably, with 11 minutes remaining and after another incisive United counter-attack, Rashford appeared to have completed a late turnaround by converting James' cut-back from the byline. But as comebacks go, it was not late enough.
There was still time for McBurnie to equalise and force Solskjaer to answer difficult yet deserved questions.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Moore, Basham (Robinson), Jagielka, O'Connell, Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood), Fleck, Stevens, McGoldrick (Sharp), Mousset (McBurnie).
Subs not used: Besic, Freeman, Osborne, Verrips.
MAN UNITED: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Jones (Lingard), Maguire, Williams, Fred, Pereira (Greenwood), James, Martial (Tuanzebe), Rashford.
Subs not used: Mata, Young, Grant, Garner.
Man of the Match: John Fleck
Attendance: 32 024
Referee: Marriner A. (Eng)