A remarkable Sheffield Wednesday turnaround is nearly complete
United looked to have automatic promotion in the bag, four points ahead of the Owls with three games to go, on 88 points to Wednesday's 84.
Yet somehow they have managed to blow it.
Instead of closing out the final promotion place- with Charlton Athletic already securing top spot - United have gained just one point from two games.
Wednesday have been clinical, winning their last two games over play-off chasing Carlisle and Brentford.
United losing away the MK Dons, who sit in fourth, was perhaps understandable, it was always going to be a tough fixture, but they would have hoped to at least pick up a point.
Drawing at home against play-off chasers Stevenage, now in sixth, was more of a blow. United kicked off late last Saturday, knowing that a win was required, having seen Wednesday take the three points earlier in the day.
Their collapse from a seemingly unassailable position to their city neighbours is reminiscent of the drama being played out in the Premier League, with Manchester United blowing an eight point lead in four games, to now trail City on goal difference.
While Manchester United have their complacency to blame, Sheffield United have more withered under the pressure.
There has also been the distraction of 29-goal striker Ched Evans being sent to prison for five years for rape, a decision he intends to appeal. We will never know the quantifiable effect that has had on team morale, and how much of a distraction it has been.
The closest reason for United's collapse we can pinpoint is simply their tough fixtures. MK Dons away was one Wednesday would have been looking at hoping they would drop points, and Stevenage have climbed from ninth to sixth in two weeks, are on form, and are tough to beat.
With the final games of the season to be played this weekend, there may yet be another twist in the tale.
Wednesday play host to Wycombe Wanderers, who were relegated last weekend, and are an unassailable four points clear of safety. It should be a foregone conclusion, but so often, condemned sides suddenly find form from nowhere. Just look at Wolves who put four past Swansea last weekend in the Premier League.
A draw would do nicely for Sheffield United, who travel to Exeter City, another relegated side who sit two points behind Wycombe. Even a heavy win will not be enough if Wednesday handle their business as planned.
Whoever comes out on top between the two clubs will secure bragging rights for the whole summer, and probably the whole of the next season too. For the loser, a game of chance in the play-offs awaits.
Why have Sheffield United fallen apart over the last two games?
image: © joncandy