London – Manchester United’s Premier League title hopes suffered a huge blow on Wednesday with a 2-1 defeat against last-place Sheffield United, while Chelsea started the Thomas Tuchel era with a scoreless draw against Wolves.
The shock result at Old Trafford leaves Manchester City a point clear at the top with a game in hand and looking increasingly like the favorite to win a third title in four years.
Elsewhere on a busy night of midweek action, Leicester drew 1-1 with Everton, Burnley beat Aston Villa 3-2 and Brighton drew 0-0 with Fulham.
Manchester United went into its match against Sheffield United on a high after an F.A. Cup win against Liverpool on Sunday but was sloppy and uninspired from the kickoff.
The Blades broke the deadlock midway through the first half when Kean Bryan rose to glance home John Fleck’s corner.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men tied the score in the 64th minute when an outswinging corner from Alex Telles was met with a thumping header by Harry Maguire.
Sheffield United was back in front again 10 minutes later when Manchester United failed to clear and Oliver Burke’s strike went in off the underside of the bar after taking a wicked deflection off Axel Tuanzebe.
The Blades had just five points to show from their first 19 games — the worst haul in Premier League history — and had not won at Old Trafford since 1973.
Solskjaer said his side was lacking an “X factor” as it slipped to its first league defeat since Nov. 1.
He blamed the referee for two mistakes — for missing a foul on goalkeeper David De Gea on Sheffield United’s opening goal and for waving off an Anthony Martial goal after adjudging that Maguire had committed a foul.
“Two wrong decisions, that’s how it is, it’s that kind of season, inconsistent and the referee missed those two,” he told the BBC.
Former Paris Saint-Germain boss Tuchel took charge at Stamford Bridge against misfiring Wolves earlier in the night, less than 24 hours after replacing the sacked Frank Lampard.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is looking for the 47-year-old to revive the fortunes of a team that had lost five of its previous eight Premier League games.
Chelsea struggled to make an impression against Nuno Espirito Santo’s men, whose form has nose-dived since forward Raul Jimenez fractured his skull in late November.
The home side dominated territory and possession, but created few clear-cut chances and the visitors had opportunities to leave with all three points.
Tuchel, however,didn’t appear downhearted despite the flat display.
“I was very happy performance-wise,” he said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t score. If we take care of our performance like this the results will come.”
The draw lifted Chelsea into eighth place, five points behind fourth-place West Ham. Tuchel, however, knows time is not on his side with more than half of the season gone.
He also admitted he had not yet been able to properly assess his squad.
“It was today totally unfair because I had no explanation for anybody on the side why they didn’t play,” he said. “Every day will help.”
Elsewhere, Jordan Pickford was punished for the latest in a long list of embarrassing errors as the blundering Everton goalkeeper allowed Youri Tielemans to rescue a draw for Leicester.
Clinging to the first-half lead provided by James Rodriguez, Everton was denied three points when Pickford let Tielemans’ shot squirm into the net after the break at Goodison Park.
Leicester sits third in the Premier League, two points behind Manchester City, and looks capable of pushing for a top-four finish even with leading scorer Jamie Vardy currently sidelined through injury.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers told BT Sport: “We should’ve gone on and won the game, that was maybe two points dropped for us but they’re a really good side — but if you can’t win, don’t lose.”
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