Sheffield United fail to pose enough questions to test Manchester City

From Sheffield United’s perspective, this match was always going to be a balancing act between ensuring they had enough men behind the ball to frustrate Manchester City’s passing without becoming too passive or compliant.

It was a trick they managed to perform with some degree of success during the closing stages of the contest. Unfortunately, by that time, Kyle Walker had already scored what would prove to be the only goal of a tight contest which tested United’s tactical discipline and City’s patience.

Walker, who has stated he wants to finish his career at Bramall Lane after turning professional with United, refused to celebrate after threading a low, long-range shot between Aaron Ramsdale’s outstretched palm and the far post. It was a finish of the same quality as City’s passing and movement, although United will again take encouragement from the fact they were eventually able to disrupt it ahead of next weekend’s trip to Chelsea. With only one to their name so far this season, however, Wilder will be acutely aware they also need to begin adding some points to the plaudits they have received from Guardiola afterwards.

Although the narrowness of the scoreline compared to the possession percentages reflected just how hard United worked - showing a high level of discipline as they attempted to keep their positions and shape as City pinged the ball this way and that - Wilder will have been disappointed by the sight of Guardiola’s men being let off the hook when their own concentration levels slipped.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder and his Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola at the end of today's game at Bramall Lane. (Photo by RUI VIEIRA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

As expected, genuine openings for United were few and far between. So when one did present itself, their final ball needed to be of a higher quality than the ones Ben Osborn and Max Lowe produced as the hosts attempted to spring first half counter attacks.

Chris Basham did enjoy a clear sight of goal after Walker had given City a 29th minute lead, but his header was glanced wide.

Guardiola paid United the respect of also selecting the likes of Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte in his starting eleven, alongside Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian saw a low free-kick smothered after Mahrez had also tested Aaron Ramsdale’s handling.

However, as the afternoon wore on, United began to pose some questions of their own to a City defence troubled by Sander Berge’s driving runs towards the byline. The decision to nudge the Norwegian slightly higher up the pitch appeared to catch Guardiola’s men unawares and, had substitute John Lundstram aimed his shot a little lower, would have been rewarded with an equaliser.

Berge, whose pass had found Lundstram in space inside the penalty area, also created a chance for George Baldock but the wing-back was too tightly marshalled to get a touch.

Sheffield United: Ramsdale, Basham, Egan, Stevens, Lowe (McGoldrick 80), Baldock, Ampadu (Norwood 65), Osborn (, Berge, McBurnie, Brewster. Not used: Verrips, Lundstram, Sharp, Burke, Robinson.

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Cancelo, Laporte, Silva, de Bruyne, Mahrez (Gundogan 85), Rodrigo, Sterling, Torres (Foden 80). Not used: Trafford, Stones, Ake, Zinchenko, Garcia.

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).

VAR: Paul Tierney.