Onana saves and scuppers Manchester United, Wharton wonderful, Sheffield United down – 3pm Blackout

Matt Stead
Sheffield United players react, Andre Onana commits a foul and Crystal Palace midfielder Adam Wharton passes
Sheffield United are down but Adam Wharton stocks are up

Andre Onana did not learn his Man Utd lessons. Adam Wharton is the Crystal Palace truth. Luton are out of gas. And Newcastle put Sheffield United down.


Fulham 1-1 Crystal Palace: Adam Wharton. Plane. Euros. Now.
While not quite Tom Carroll to Gareth Bale against West Ham levels of nondescript assist to absolute wonder goal, Adam Wharton’s ball for Jeffrey Schlupp’s thunderous equaliser against Fulham was simply the sort of pass he had been making all afternoon.

The ease with which Wharton has taken to Premier League football is remarkable. A 20-year-old with not even the equivalent of a full Championship season to his name should not be able to operate with such calm authority in a top-flight midfield yet water-based ducks would be envious of this seamless acclimatisation.

That the England shouts currently concentrated solely within the Palace fanbase cannot be immediately dismissed out of hand underlines his impact. The Euros will surely come too soon but the next international tournament squad cycle can only overlook Wharton’s composure and vision for so long.

It was a sublime goal from Schlupp, a truly vicious strike from range to cancel out Rodrigo Muniz’s first-half header. Wharton’s hands-on-head reaction said it all. But his pass to a player being marked closest by Luton fan Stuart Attwell was a neat summary of his game: receive the ball on the half-turn, take a touch and play a quick forward pass. It is a simple but effective approach he already seems to have mastered, combining it with defensive excellence for a blend of midfield magnificence that will not go under the radar for long.

There is a reason Manchester United and Newcastle both want Dougie Freedman, despite Rio Ferdinand’s nonsensical take; one look at Wharton is proof enough.

Matt Stead


Manchester United 1-1 Burnley: Onana sums up his role as contradictory keeper
How disappointing that no Burnley player had the wherewithal to seek out Antony and cup their ears. Those selfish Clarets seemed less interested in levelling scores for Coventry than they were equalising and even searching for a winner at Old Trafford. The game is gone.

Sheffield United are sinking entirely with a trace – of the absolute worst defensive record the Premier League has ever witnessed, to be exact. But Burnley have timed this incredible sprint for survival brilliantly. One defeat in eight games at the precise point Luton have been gripped by vertigo and Nottingham Forest are occupying themselves with conspiracy nonsense has Burnley within three points of safety.

The gap could have been even smaller with better finishing here. Manchester United might entirely justifiably proffer the same argument, albeit only if they wish to damn this sorry season further after dropping points at home to the team second from bottom.

They had Andre Onana to both thank and curse. The keeper produced two excellent saves from Lyle Foster, yet also absolutely clattered someone when challenging for an aerial ball despite having the slight advantage of being able to use his hands, because learning lessons is for nerds.

In almost exactly the same part of the pitch that he wiped Sasa Kalajdzic out when defending a late one-goal lead, Onana decided the embody the perennial refereeing argument between consistency and common sense, displaying absolutely none of the latter and giving VAR little opportunity but to enforce the former after shoving a forearm into Zeki Amdouni’s actual face.

The penalty was given. The penalty was scored. Manchester United inexplicably remain sixth courtesy of the draw, a point ahead of a Newcastle side with whose goal-differential is 18 better, because nothing is just in this world – as Burnley proved by not sticking it to Antony and instead trying to take what would have been a hilarious lead through Wilson Odobert.

Onana saved the Frenchman’s late effort – the game’s final meaningful shot, struck hard and low at the near post – to prove himself both Manchester United’s saviour and one of their numerous shortcomings.

“You want to tell me in six months the best goalkeeper in the Champions League last season can become the worst in the world?” he scoffed in December. This one game encapsulated the baffling existence of that maddening dichotomy.

Matt Stead


Newcastle 5-1 Sheffield United: Blades relegated as Magpies’ superstars maintain European push
Sheffield United knew they needed to win at St James’ Park to preserve their Premier League status until the inevitable relegation arrived.

Newcastle United, meanwhile, are in need of a minor miracle to qualify for the Europa League after the disappointing midweek defeat at Crystal Palace. Qualification for the Europa Conference League is more than feasible thanks to a Manchester derby in the FA Cup final.

Amazingly, the Blades took the lead early on thanks to an Anel Ahmedhodzic header. As that tells you, Newcastle started poorly and their best players were misfiring. Amidst all the transfer noise surrounding Bruno Guimaraes, he needed to step up.

He did eventually do so to give the Magpies the lead in the 54th minute with an excellent diving header but it was Alexander Isak – Eddie Howe’s most important player – who got them level.

There is a lot of talk about a Guimaraes transfer to one of Arsenal, Manchester City or PSG with Newcastle willing to sell a big-name player to raise funds. They will not be happy to see the Brazilian leave but if he does, needs must. He is replaceable at least. Isak is not.

His run to receive Jacob Murphy’s assist was outstanding and the finish was even better. At 1-1, Sheffield United were all but relegated. Still able to finish on the same points tally as Nottingham Forest, they were 41 goals worse off.

After Bruno’s strike, the floodgates opened and the Blades were on their way back down to the Championship.

Anthony Gordon, Newcastle’s third star player, won a penalty thanks to some abysmal Mason Holgate defending and Isak got his second of the game with an expertly dispatched spot-kick.

A comical Ben Osborn own goal rubbed salt in the wounds before Callum Wilson helped himself to a fifth goal to send Chris Wilder’s side back down to the second tier with their tails between their legs.

Sheffield United have had a season to forget and the manner of their defeat was almost perfectly epitomised their campaign, but they actually showed some hope with an early lead at Newcastle when there has been nothing of the sort from the first day of the season.

Jason Soutar


Wolves 2-1 Luton: Hatters and Handsome Rob Edwards running out of steam at the worst time
Any hope of a relegation battle of some sort has been rescued by points deductions to Everton and Nottingham Forest. The former are probably going to be okay, unless they are deducted even more points than the eight they have already seen taken off their 2023/24 tally.

A win at Wolves would have secured Luton a double over Gary O’Neil’s side but more importantly took the Hatters out of the bottom three ahead of Forest’s home clash against Manchester City on Sunday, which they are obviously expected to lose.

They did not seize the moment at Molineux, losing 2-1 with the result never being in doubt, even after Carlton Morris halved the deficit in the 80th minute.

Out of all three promoted teams, Luton have been the best by some distance, which is an achievement in itself given the stature of the club and the fact their manager, Handsome Rob Edwards, had never managed in the English top flight before.

Sheffield United have been nothing short of abysmal and Burnley had been very poor until showing signs of life in recent weeks. The Blades and Luton were two clubs already relegated before a ball was kicked but the latter have impressed massively, even against the Premier League’s big boys, giving Liverpool and Arsenal hell at Kenilworth Road.

Wolves went route one to open the scoring on Saturday and a telling deflection on Hwang Hee-chan’s strike left Thomas Kaminski with no chance. The lead was doubled early on in the second half after Toti headed in a superb Mario Lemina cross.

As mentioned, Morris made it 2-1 late on but Luton did not do enough to earn a valuable point.

It has been a woeful few weeks for Edwards and his players, who have run out steam at the worst time possible.

A superb run of form from late December to early February gave Luton a fighting chance but since the mental 4-4 draw at Newcastle on February 3, they have picked up a grand total of five points from a possible 39, which is relegation form of the purest kind.

With nine points left to play for, Luton need to buck up their ideas and Everton at home next Friday is a good place to start. Fixtures against the Toffees, West Ham and Fulham give them a fighting chance at least, but if recent weeks are anything to go by, they will save Forest from being truly punished for any financial wrongdoings.

Jason Soutar