Diogo Dalot curled home a suitably spectacular winner as Manchester United secured the win they craved over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane to mark the passing of legendary former player Sir Bobby Charlton.
Having said before the game United ‘have to win for Sir Bobby’ following the announcement of Charlton’s passing four hours before kick-off, it was appropriate in-form midfielder Scott McTominay should put the visitors ahead with a well-taken effort just before the half hour.
But after Oli McBurnie had drilled a superb penalty into the corner when McTominay handled just six minutes later, it was left to Dalot to provide the appropriate ending in honour of the man who scored so many memorable goals during the 17 years at Old Trafford in which he became one of the greatest Englishman to ever lace up his boots.
Sheffield United keeper Wes Foderingham got his hand to Dalot’s well-struck 25-yard effort but was unable to keep it out as it rippled into the roof of the net.
It was harsh luck on the home side, who were the better for long periods, particularly in the first half.
But they lack the touch of class needed to go with their eye-catching approach play and, with one point from nine games, remain bottom of the Premier League and in massive trouble with less than a quarter of the campaign gone.
For Erik ten Hag’s side, it was a game they had to win if they are not to lose touch completely with their top four rivals although, on a day like today, paying a fitting tribute to Charlton’s memory provided their main motivation.
Charlton is one of the most significant figures in the storied history of Manchester United that the current crop of players are finding it difficult to live up to.
Even in victory, at times they looked disjointed.
Their struggles were encapsulated in stoppage time when Antony Martial was presented with a three-on-one situation as he bore down on the home goal.
Martial elected to go left to fellow substitute Alejandro Garnacho rather than right to Bruno Fernandes. Garnacho put the chance wide, but it transpired he had run offside anyway.
Sofyan Amrabat operated as a de-facto quarter-back, playing deeper than Harry Maguire, Jonny Evans and Victor Lindelof, who were given the responsibility of starting attacks but rarely did so with any speed or purpose.
Fernandes flicked a first-half free-kick off the crossbar and Amrabat’s long-range effort thudded against the other one after the break.
However, other than an excellent save from Foderingham to deny Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford sending an low effort wide of the far post, the visitors were not convincing, until Dalot stepped in to win it.
Sheffield United suffered a club record eight-goal hammering by Newcastle on their last outing on home soil.
There are two sides to Paul Heckingbottom’s team though. There is also the one that was level with Manchester City with five minutes left and that led at Tottenham heading into injury time.
This performance was very much from the latter variety.
Cameron Archer forced Andre Onana into two decent first-half saves, the second of which also required some assistance from Amrabat.
The Blades’ midfield passing game was sharp and exploited the gaps that appeared as their opponents struggled with the positional aspect of their game.
At one point, Onana went down apparently injured, triggering the visitors entire outfield contingent to head over to their manager on the touchline for what was something akin to a tactical time-out.
A dipping, swerving long-range second-half effort from substitute Rhian Brewster also tested Onana.
The thunderous manner of McBurnie’s equaliser suggested that despite their plight, there is still belief in the Sheffield United camp.
But the fact it was the Scotland forward’s first goal of the season also shows the class to make a tangible impact at this level is simply not there.