Everything you need to know about Sheffield Utd
Manchester United’s first-ever competitive behind-closed-doors match at Old Trafford sees us take on Sheffield United on Wednesday.
The Blades, in League One as recently as May 2017, are one of several sides competing with the Reds for a Champions League qualification spot, after a stellar first campaign back in the Premier League following Championship promotion last term.
The South Yorkshire outfit sit seventh in the table with 44 points, which is two fewer than United have in fifth – at the time of writing the final slot for the next season of Europe’s premier tournament, given Manchester City’s two-season ban from the competition.
Here’s everything you need to know about Sheffield United, manager Chris Wilder and how they’ve been getting on since the league resumed…
Sheffield United will be forced into making a change in goal, with Dean Henderson ineligible due to the conditions of his loan deal from the Reds. The Blades will also be without key defender John Egan when they make the trip across the Pennines. The 27-year-old, who has missed just one Premier League game so far this season – the reverse fixture in November – was sent off for two bookable offences during the 3-0 defeat to Newcastle on Sunday, and will now serve a one-match suspension. Wilder will wait for news on the fitness of Jack O’Connell (knee) and David McGoldrick (knock). The former has been missing since the restart, while McGoldrick sat out the Blades’ last game after limping off towards the end of the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa last week.
Wilder’s side are still looking for their first goal since the restart, with that stalemate at Villa Park and Sunday’s comprehensive loss meaning they have taken one point from six in June so far. The Blades’ disappointing defeat at St James’ Park was a surprise blemish on what has been an otherwise impressive record on the road in 2019/20 – four wins, eight draws and just two defeats, to Liverpool and Manchester City, prior to the weekend. Before football’s three-month hiatus, Sheffield United had won three of their previous four games, and they can leapfrog the Reds in the standings with a win at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
OUR RECORD AGAINST THE BLADES
Three points in M16 is a feat that has evaded the South Yorkshire club since Boxing Day 1973, when goals from Tony Currie and Alan Woodward completed a 2-1 comeback victory that kept United in the relegation zone of the old First Division. In the intervening 47 years, the Blades have visited Old Trafford in the league on six occasions and lost all six, with the Reds recording an aggregate score of 17 goals to two. While they did contest a third-round FA Cup match here back in 2016 – losing 1-0 to a late Wayne Rooney penalty – the last league meeting between the sides in Manchester came in April 2007, when goals from Michael Carrick and Rooney consigned Neil Warnock’s men to a costly defeat – they would eventually be demoted by virtue of a single goal. Earlier this season, the sides shared six goals in a thrilling encounter at Bramall Lane, the highlights of which you can view below.
Formerly of Alfreton Town, Halifax Town and Oxford United, Chris Wilder’s stock has risen dramatically since he took over the reins at Northampton Town in January 2014. Within two seasons, he’d taken the Cobblers from the verge of non-league football to promotion to League One. In 2016/17, his first season at Bramall Lane, he masterminded the Blades’ ascension to the Championship and followed that up with a further promotion in 2019. Despite the success of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp last season at their respective clubs, Wilder’s achievement with the South Yorkshire outfit was enough to earn him the prestigious LMA Manager of the Year award – a prize he’ll surely be in with a chance of retaining should the Blades secure European football for 2020/21.
ONE TO WATCH
The Blades have had a number of standout performers in their first season back in the top-flight, with Henderson, George Baldock and John Lundstram all impressing in their maiden campaigns at this level. However, arguably their most influential and consistent player is midfielder Oliver Norwood. The United Academy graduate won Championship promotion with Brighton and Fulham in 2017 and 2018, but is finally getting the opportunity to prove himself in the top tier with Wilder’s side. The Burnley-born Northern Ireland international has featured in every one of the Blades’ 30 league games so far and he leads the Premier League when it comes to passes into the final third (197) and percentage of successful dribbles (87.5 per cent). His ability to switch the play is key to his side’s system, which sees the Blades try and overload the wide areas before delivering dangerous crosses into the box.