SHEFFIELD, England — Manchester United conceded a 90th-minute equalizer after rallying from a two-goal deficit to draw 3-3 with Sheffield United in a wild Premier League match on Sunday.
Oli McBurnie’s goal required a review by VAR for a possible handball but it was awarded — to loud roars by the home fans at Bramall Lane — to stop Man United climbing to fifth place in the standings.
Having fallen 2-0 down after 52 minutes, Man United scored three goals in a seven-minute span from the 72nd to go ahead in dramatic fashion. All of those goals were scored by academy graduates, with 19-year-old Brandon Williams and 18-year-old Mason Greenwood netting for the first time in the league before Marcus Rashford completed the remarkable comeback.
Still, the visitors could not hold out and stayed behind Sheffield United, which is sixth in a brilliant first season back in England’s top flight.
Man United was woeful in the first half, outplayed in every department and slipping behind to a goal from midfielder John Fleck in the 19th. Lys Mousset then added a second goal for Sheffield United before the hosts started to tire and Man United began attacking with pace.
The future of Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is back in renewed focus now that Mauricio Pochettino is on the market following his firing by Tottenham this week, and the nature of this draw might only serve to spark speculation.
"It was a very poor performance," said Solskjaer, who described himself as "angry" and "disappointed" at halftime. "We didn’t win any challenges, we weren’t first to the ball, we didn’t stick to what we had planned. I could have changed all the players at halftime, except David (De Gea) as he kept us in it."
Solskjaer got his tactics wrong, too, starting with a back three that included the recalled Phil Jones and pairing the outclassed duo of Fred and Andreas Pereira in central midfield. Jones had a poor performance — he was shrugged off easily by Mousset in the build-up to the opening goal — and was inevitably substituted at halftime for Jesse Lingard, with United reverting to four at the back.
However, Man United did improve in the second half, dominating possession and eventually forcing the opportunities as Sheffield United retreated.
"Even though the big part of this game is a negative and we are disappointed with it, the overriding feeling is a positive because of the character to stick in there and turn it around," Solskjaer said.
Williams, a left back, lashed in a right-footed half-volley after a right-wing cross from Daniel James was only half-cleared to launch the comeback, and Rashford curled in a low cross for Greenwood to slide in and convert from the edge of the six-yard box.
When Rashford steered home a cutback from flying winger James in the 79th, a stunning victory looked on for Solskjaer’s side.
McBurnie had other ideas, though, controlling a cross from substitute Callum Robinson near his shoulder and allowing the ball to drop — dangerously close to his right arm — before poking in a volley that goalkeeper David De Gea could only palm into the net.
"It’s not desire in terms of the word `desire,’ maybe it’s confidence in themselves," Solskjaer said about his players. "I don’t doubt them wanting to win, sometimes young players don’t really know how to win challenges like this and we must have learned a lot today, I’m sure we have.
"They’ve come through the academy, most of these boys, and in the academy you don’t play in these kind of games, despite trying to teach them to play without fear."