BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Highflying Blades can keep United at bay

A Mauricio Pochettino shadow will be hanging over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer until the out-of-work Argentinian has found himself a new job and Manchester United's manager may be feeling even less sure of himself after this visit to Bramall Lane.

Sheffield United have proved to be awkward opponents for virtually everyone since gaining promotion to the Premier League and there is a fair chance of them landing another upset.

Chris Wilder's men have already beaten Arsenal at home and drawn away to Chelsea and Tottenham as well as winning at Everton.

Two of their three defeats were narrow losses to Liverpool and Leicester and a reverse to Southampton was unfortunate as they dominated large parts of the contest.

Goalkeeper Dean Henderson has conceded just nine goals in 12 matches and one of those was a rare terrible error in the 1-0 loss to Liverpool.

His absence - Henderson is on loan from the men from Manchester - is a blow which means Wilder will have to make at least one change to his defence for the first time in the Premier League season, while centre-back John Egan is struggling after being injured playing for Ireland in midweek.

That potential disruption dents confidence in the Blades, but it's not as if the visitors are at full strength either. 

Not that long ago an injury to Scott McTominay, who is out for several weeks, would have been considered little more than a cursory mention.

He has since become crucial to a midfield already lacking the services of Paul Pogba. The industrious Scot scored in United's victories over Norwich and Brighton.

McTominay's Darren Fletcher-like attitude stands out and United don't have a huge amount of experience to fall back on. James Garner could be alongside Fred and the Blades will fancy their chances of taking that battle, particularly with an extra man in midfield due to their 3-5-2 formation.

Solskjaer's side have won only four league matches this season so are understandably on the drift from the opening quotes to triumph at Bramall Lane and Wilder's defensive shape should allow the hosts to remain compact, just as they have for much of this campaign.

Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Dan James love to play on the break, but so do Liverpool's Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane and they had a difficult time time finding space at Bramall Lane.

It was the same for Arsenal in their 1-0 defeat and could be equally tricky for the Red Devils to land counter-attacking forays.

Best bet
Sheffield United

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Match in Focus

17:30 Sa 25Jan BT1

Hull v Chelsea

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Chelsea have won their last seven meetings with Hull
Expert verdict
Chelsea beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 in the FA Cup third round and a similar scoreline could follow at the KCOM Stadium. Inconsistent Hull managed only three shots on target en route to losing their last two Championship outings and the youthful Blues look a class above their hosts.