Berge's attitude, Ramsdale's homecoming and a familiar face in the crowd: SIX things we noticed from Sheffield United's 4-0 friendly win over Doncaster Rovers
Sheffield United did not look like a team whose pre-season schedule has been disrupted by Covid-19 as they breezed past local rivals Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat tonight.
Friendly games count for nothing when the real action begins, of course; not even ones in which you dominate almost throughout, score four goals and could have had more.
But it is certainly a case of so far, so good for Slavisa Jokanović’s Blades, as they made it two wins from two in a truncated pre-season schedule so far. Lys Mousset scored two, both in the first half, after Oliver Burke had opened the scoring with a gift of a goal.
Luke Freeman came off the bench to cap the win with a late header, and United could have won by a greater margin but for glaring misses from Burke and Rhian Brewster, who is still searching for his first goal in United colours.
Here are some of the key talking points from the Keepmoat win…
Highlighted as a key man in the Jokanović era, not least because they have worked together before, to great effect, at Fulham, Norwood was again instrumental here in what appeared to be a slightly tweaked role.
Norwood has always operated at the base of United’s midfield, but for large periods of his outing here played almost as an auxillary centre-half in the first half as United lined up with a back four.
John Egan and Jack Robinson went wide as Norwood dropped deeper than ever before, often being the deepest man back as he launched attacks. His passing was crisp, linking up well with George Baldock in particular down the right, and he will be just one United player keen to put last season behind him and go again.
He barely had anything to do, one save from Jordy Hiwala just about his entire body of work for the whole evening, but it felt hugely significant to see Ramsdale back in a Blades shirt for the first 45 minutes, as speculation continues to rage about his future.
A target of Arsenal, in years gone by Ramsdale would have probably been a Gunner (or should that be gonner?) by now. But here he remains, and the ovation he received from the sold-out away end underlines how important they think he will be next season as the Blades look to get back in the big time at the first attempt.
He still may move on. But if he does, it is certain that he would not receive anywhere near the love he gets from Blades fans at the Emirates or elsewhere.
Playing out from the back
It was also noticeable how much more Ramsdale played with his feet tonight, at one stage playing one-twos around the Doncaster forwards to great cheers from the fans behind him.
It doesn’t work for everyone – Oli Burke’s opening goal came from a horror pass from Doncaster’s goalkeeper Louis Jones, to great disdain from one fan in the home end who was encouraging his side’s players to “lump it” at every opportunity – but Ramsdale is clearly confident doing so, and it helped United play through whatever press Rovers tried to implement.
Keep an eye out for it when the season starts for real.
Moose on the loose
Two more goals took the Frenchman’s pre-season tally to three in two friendlies so far, but it was more than just his strikes – confident as they were – that caught the eye here.
He was a constant threat throughout, chasing and harrying the Donny defence and giving them a headache in behind, too. He created the opening goal by closing down Jones after a backpass, when it would have been easier to just jog back into position, and maybe – just maybe – the penny is starting to drop with arguably United’s most potent forward when he is at his best.
Another player whose future has been the subject of speculation all summer, but if that has been playing on his mind he didn’t show it here.
Granted, an international of his class should stand out against, with no disrespect intended, a League One club. But these games are often about attitude and application as much as anything, and Berge was not found wanting for either.
His run, when he breezed through the defence in the build-up to Mousset’s first, showed the attributes he can bring and although he may not see out the season at Bramall Lane, any part of it he spends in South Yorkshire will be a joy to watch on tonight’s showing, at least.
A familiar face in the crowd
It didn’t take long for Paddy Kenny, the former United goalkeeper, to be spotted as he took his place amongst the United fans.
“There’s only one Paddy Kenny” and “Paddy, give us a song” soon rang out from the away fans behind Ramsdale’s goal. The former goalkeeper still has a big affinity for the Blades, and he and fiancé Chloe were not short-changed as the Blades ran rampant at the Keepmoat.