Football

Inconsistency costing Manchester United: Rio Ferdinand

Manchester United are being held back by inconsistent performances from their top players, former captain Rio Ferdinand said after their shock 2-1 defeat by bottom side Sheffield United in the English Premier League yesterday morning (Singapore time).

"Last week (against) Liverpool - tremendous performance," Ferdinand told BT Sport. "(Against) bottom-of-the-league Sheffield United - dour, lifeless at times. The inconsistencies don't win you the league.

"It's what we said about Manchester United for many, many months - that the inconsistencies of individuals on this team is what's holding them back."

The Blades went ahead in the 23rd minute when Kean Bryan headed in John Fleck's corner, with David de Gea flapping at the cross, although replays suggested he may have been pushed by striker Billy Sharp.

Though Harry Maguire equalised in the 64th minute by heading in Alex Telles' corner, United paid the price for hesitant defending 10 minutes later, when Oliver Burke's low drive deflected off Axel Tuanzebe and crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.

United's big-name players were anonymous against Chris Wilder's side, as their 13-match unbeaten run in the league came to an end.

The pairing of Scott McTominay and Brazilian Fred at the base of the midfield has worked throughout their recent run of good form. But, without them, United were back to the ponderous and hesitant, slow build-up play that rarely suits them.

Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba did not bring that same level of intensity.

Up front, Anthony Martial struggled again, while Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood produced too little, with Edinson Cavani introduced only late in the game.

At the back, Tuanzebe, at centre-half alongside Harry Maguire, looked well short of the standards set by the injured Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly.

Solskjaer avoided blaming individuals, but was clearly unhappy with the performance.

He said: "Disappointed, we couldn't get to the heights of the last few months' football we played."

The Red Devils are still a point behind leaders Manchester City, who have a game in hand, but Ferdinand warned that the gap could widen again.

"If anybody was starting to get carried away at Old Trafford... it was a reality check," he said. - REUTERS

Football