Alan Biggs' Sheffield United column: David McGoldrick is indispensable to this Blades team
It’s an incredible statement to make of an attacking player yet to score this season - he HAS to play for his team to be at their best.
Simply put, David McGoldrick is the major reason why Sheffield United’s performance levels in the Championship are - astonishingly - being replicated consistently in the Premier League.
“We don’t play like that if David’s not in the team,” Chris Wilder flatly told me this week.
More telling words I have yet to hear about any United player - especially as every single one is operating around the maximum. And, let’s not forget, a free signing at that.
McGoldrick has provided that link, that special catalystic quality, between last season and this - for almost the same first choice line-up.
He’s ensured that a subtle change of tactic, strengthening midfield at the expense of a number ten behind a front two, is working a treat.
In short, McGoldrick is replacing what Mark Duffy brought to the team - enabling United to remain creative from a more solid base.
Not forgetting that the Ireland international sometimes performed a similar function as a deep-lying forward in the promotion season.
What’s remarkable, beyond his technical excellence, is that McGoldrick is finding the fitness and energy, at 32, to double up as the second striker.
Granted, some 30 attempts and still no goal in the Premier League is extraordinary, too. But he contributes so much, besides making himself a constant threat in the opposition area.
Without scoring, he has made himself virtually indispensable and undroppable. Mind you, there are many others in the same category there - including John Fleck, suspended at Brighton on Saturday after his brilliant brace of the Aston Villa win.
Maybe an opportunity for Luke Freeman, among outstanding Championship performers who have been unable to dislodge the promotion heroes after signing last summer? Or Mo Besic?
The Blades, seventh in the Premier League, have reached an unreal level. So much so that Wilder was moved to remind us, when last week’s first half against Villa was slightly questioned, that 90 minutes domination is an impossible ask.
While I’m the last critic to demand that, my view holds that it was a little flat - by United’s standards (which is the point). No meaningful threats on goal; highly unusual for the home team at Bramall Lane these days, albeit against defence-minded opposition.
But a brilliant second half also highlighted the measure of expectation to which this team has subjected itself, however unfair that undoubtedly is.
It’s the problem - if you can call it that - I highlighted here last week. As is the belief by some that six points, from Brighton away and Watford at home on Boxing Day, is there for the taking. And, from that platform, a charge for European football next season!
But it’s a lovely sort of pressure. Way beyond the yardstick for a successful season.
And the ultimate compliment is that top flight teams - Newcastle and then Villa - are starting to set up as visitors did in the two leagues below, lying deep in numbers.
The creators of dreams like this have to be rewarded and protected. Last weekend, Wilder confirmed what this column suggested three weeks ago - that no new deal for the management had been mooted by the owners.
Cue for the perfect Christmas present?