Fifth-placed Manchester United host Sheffield United at Old Trafford on Wednesday, with both teams seeking their first wins after Premier League resumption following the COVID-19-enforced suspension.
United and Sheffield are in a six-way battle to finish fifth or higher to sneak into next season’s Champions League group stage if UEFA’s two-year ban on Manchester City, who are currently second on the Premier League table, is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men held Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur to a draw last Friday, with the returning Paul Pogba putting in an influential display as a second-half substitute and crucially winning a penalty converted by Bruno Fernandes.
Chris Wilder’s Sheffield side have gone 180 minutes without scoring since the restart, claiming one point from a possible six from fixtures against Aston Villa and Newcastle United, but have the chance to move above Manchester United with a win tonight.
At his pre-match press conference, Solskajer confirmed he has a fully-fit United squad for the Sheffield United fixture. “Yeah, we don’t have any injury issues,” the Norwegian said. “I think they all [the players] managed to get through the game. They were tired towards the end, some of them, but we’ve got another 90 minutes under our belt and we’re ready to go again.”
Visiting Sheffield will be without goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who is ineligible to face his parent club according to Premier League rules. John Egan will serve his one-match suspension after being sent off for two yellow-card offences against Newcastle United, while Wilder hopes David McGoldrick will be fit to face United after he sustained a knock against Aston Villa in the first match of Premier League’s Project Restart.
Chris Wilder, at his pre-match press conference, said: “Yes, I have made that decision (to replace Dean Henderson), but I am not willing to share that.”
Manchester United vs Sheffield predicted starting line-up
Will Paul Pogba start for Manchester United? That’s a major talking point of Solskjaer’s team selection for tonight’s fixture. Among others, Mason Greenwood and Nemanja Matic could be possible starters against Sheffield, with the back four of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw likely to be retained.
Possible Manchester United starting XI (4-1-4-1): David de Gea (GK); Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire (C), Luke Shaw; Scott McTominay/Nemanja Matic; Mason Greenwood, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Anthony Martial/Odion Ighalo
For Sheffield, goalkeeper Simon Moore is likely to replace Dean Henderson in the starting XI, while Phil Jagielka may come in for the suspended Egan.
Possible Sheffield United starting XI (3-5-2): Simon Moore (GK); Jack O’Connell, Phil Jagielka, Chris Basham; George Baldock, Sander Berge, John Fleck/John Lundstram, Oliver Norwood, Enda Stevens; Billy Sharp, Lys Mousset
Manchester United vs Sheffield United prediction
Spurs manager Mourinho said at his post-match press conference after Friday’s 1-1 draw that United are a dangerous counter-attacking team and his team tried to foil it by allowing them ball possession (63 per cent over 90 minutes). Playing away from home, Wilder’s Sheffield are likely to adopt a similar game-plan.
Therefore, tonight’s fixture could be another classic case of attack versus defence. Scoring early would be ideal for United and allow them to dictate the tempo of the match, while Sheffield will prioritise the exact opposite: deny United an early goal and take advantage of the anxiety that may creep in as the match progresses.