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Manchester United paid tribute to Sir Bobby Charlton with a 2-1 Premier League victory at Sheffield United.
United are mourning one of their greatest ever players following Charlton’s death aged 86 on Saturday morning and goals from Scott McTominay and Diogo Dalot ensured they remembered him with victory.
But Erik ten Hag’s side could not be much further away from the one that Charlton famously led to European Cup glory in 1968 as they were lacklustre against a team who have picked up just one point this season.
Defender Dalot was the unlikely hero as he saved their blushes with a 20-yard curler 13 minutes from time after Oli McBurnie’s first-half penalty had cancelled out McTominay’s opener.
It was not a vintage performance, certainly not one fitting of Charlton, but United did at least register back-to-back league victories for the first time this season and Ten Hag will hope this can be a springboard.
The Blades may feel they deserved something out of the game, especially on the back of a lively first-half performance, but they slipped to an eighth defeat from nine games and a long winter looks on the cards.
United captain Bruno Fernandes laid a wreath on the centre circle before kick-off and there was a minute’s applause for the World Cup winner, while the away end gave a rousing rendition of ‘There’s only one Bobby Charlton’.
As emotional as it was for United, they still had a job to do and they had to weather an early storm from the hosts.
The Blades started well and should have led inside the opening three minutes as Gus Hamer’s shot deflected into the path of McBurnie, but with time and space 14 yards out he shot straight at Andre Onana, who gratefully clung on.
The visitors were up against it and Ten Hag used an injury break to gather his players and bark instructions.
It did not immediately make much difference as Onana, much maligned for handling errors this season, produced a strong arm to keep out Cameron Archer’s 20-yard drive.
For all their bluster, the Blades had come away from a strong opening 25 minutes without reward and they were punished as the visitors went ahead against the run of the play in the 28th minute.
McTominay, who rescued his side with two injury-time goals against Brentford before the international break, received the ball from Fernandes and his scuffed effort found its way into the bottom corner.
Things quickly turned sour for for McTominay, though, as just five minutes later he gave away a penalty when he handled James McAtee’s cross.
The incident survived a VAR check and McBurnie stepped up and stroked the spot-kick home for his first goal of the season.
McBurnie almost turned provider in the 41st minute when he slipped in Archer, but Onana bravely stopped with his face.
For all the home pressure, it was Ten Hag’s men who nearly took a lead into the half-time break as they had two late chances.
First Fernandes clipped the crossbar with a dipping free-kick before Rasmus Hojlund was denied by a fine save from Wes Foderingham, who rushed out and deflected the ball wide.
The Blades were on the front foot after the restart and Onana made another impressive stop, palming away Rhian Brewster’s effort after being wrong-footed.
United finally upped their game and created a raft of chances to go back in front.
Foderingham saved from Hojlund when the Dane should have scored, Marcus Rashford rolled wide at the far post and Sofyan Amrabat thundered a fierce 20-yard effort against the crossbar.
The breakthrough eventually came in the 77th minute when Dalot was afforded too much time on the edge of the area and he curled a shot into the top corner, though Foderingham got a hand to it and should have kept it out.
That proved enough as United remembered Charlton with victory which will not live long in the memory.
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