The undead manager of the Premier League, Louis Van Gaal is inexplicably still in the Manchester United hot seat. His bullish response to extreme pressure has to be admired, refusing to allow the media or even United to force him out of the job. Apparently a home win against relegation battlers Swansea and a Rooney goal is enough to keep the dullest circus in town rolling on. Would it be that much of a surprise for Sheffield to spring a shock defeat on Manchester?
The form guide would say so, the Blades having won 4 of their last 5. However, Sheffield have relied on outscoring their opponents—21 goals conceded at home compared to 27 scored, and that’s where they may come unstuck against one of the stoutest defences in the Premier League. Manchester United’s form is painfully bad though, with just one victory in nine games. They are outside the Champions League places and in real danger of getting left behind by Manchester City, Arsenal and Leicester.
Keep an eye out for Billy Sharp, Sheffield’s top scorer with 11 goals so far. An ex-Southampton player, Sharp has been playing in the lower divisions for several years (mostly the Championship), capably racking up 159 goals in 406 appearances for several different teams. His experience will come in handy against Manchester. But it is Che Adams who has made the headlines over the last year, following his spectacular efforts against Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup Semi-Final last season. If not for Christian Eriksen’s last minute goal, Sheffield might have made it through thanks to Adams. His play has attracted even Manchester City, who are looking to snap him up for a cool £3 million. A televised game at Old Trafford will do Adams no harm at all.
Manchester United’s key players for this fixture may include Jesse Lingard, who might have shaken off his injury in time to play. It would be an excellent game for the academy youngster to regain sharpness so he can make himself useful in the league again. Considering he was recently voted the best England U-21 player, Lingard will be hopeful of at least an attempt to make the England squad for the summer. The only way he’ll make it is if he excels in games like these.
FLIP Sports’ verdict: a score draw, probably 1-1. This match could easily head to a replay, with the Red Devils still unconvincing and the Blades lacking that little bit of firepower against one of the biggest teams in the world.