Sheffield United 3-3 Manchester United: Courage, mystery and The Mouss - What we discovered from the breathless contest at Bramall Lane
The Star's Sheffield Unitred writer James Shield examines some of the key themes to emerge from today's 3-3 draw with Manchester United.
When Marcus Rashford fired Manchester United in front after they had trailed 2-0, it should have been the end of Sheffield United. Normal teams would have crumbled. Been psychologically shot. But as we have already discoverered, this is no normal group of players. Oli McBurnie's late equaliser - which was the subject to a VAR review - ensured United took the very least they deserved from a remarkable match. For all but a mad seven minute period, they were superior to the visitors in every single department. Then, it was time to showcase their remarkable courage.
No one inside the ground, absolutely no one, will have been surprised when United took the lead. Chris Wilder could see it coming. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, whose players seemed cowed by the atmosphere inside the stadium, surely feared the worst. Old Trafford might be one of the most famous and cavernous grounds in world football. But it is rarely as intimidating as this. Even better was the fact that John Fleck's strike encapsulated all of the qualities which have made United such a force to be reckoned with in recent seasons. Lys Mousset showed more strength and desire than Phil Jones to reach the by-line. The Frenchman then, displaying great intelligence, cut the ball back to John Lundstram who had showed similiar determination to dart upfield in support. When his shot was saved, fellow midfielder Fleck was rewarded for gambling inside the six yard box.
Seriously, this isn't personal. Genuinely, I'm not trying to single-out someone who I'm sure was trying his best. But how is Phil Jones, who Mousset had on toast before Solksjaer made a change at half-time, still on the books of a club like Manchester United? One which, by the way, has the money to routinely spend more than £50m on defenders. Someone at Old Trafford thought it was worthwhile handing Jones a new contract at the beginning of Solksjaer's reign, presumably to protect his value. The deal is an irrelevance. It doesn't take a decorated coach - or one with more badges than a dedicated boy scout - to realise Jones just isn't good enough. Thankfully for United, the someone in the visitors' technical department appears to watch their football blindfolded.
Speaking of Mousset, what a buy the former AFC Bournemouth centre-forward is proving to be. His form going into this match meant you knew he was not simply excelling because Jones was so dire. It was a point Mousset hammered home again when he doubled United's lead early in the second-half, starting and finishing a move which prised apart the visitors' rearguard with impressive ease. The Frenchman enjoy precious few chances at his former club. But the confidence he has taken from both Wilder's faith in his talents and the recognition of the crowd has enabled him to show why, before leaving Le Havre, Spurs were also interested in acquiring his services. United paid £10m to sign him. He is already worth more than double that now. The sight of him limping off injured - after pulling-up off the ball midway through the second period - was a crying shame.