David McGoldrick, debutants and Oli McBurnie's miss - The FIVE main points of Sheffield United's defeat to Burnley
Before the teams emerged from their tunnels, as Burnley’s pre-match entertainment team tried to create some sort of atmosphere, a recording of Sean Dyche boomed out from Turf Moor’s PA system which for some inexplicable reason, even though there was only a smattering of people inside the stadium, was cranked up to 11.
“It’s very difficult to be successful without key, core values,” he told no one in particular in those familiar sandpaper tones. “They are called old fashioned values, but they have never been more modern.”
They resisted the temptation. After all, they were preparing for battle. But Sheffield United and their manager Chris Wilder must have felt like nodding their heads in appreciation. Because Dyche’s principles - commitment, camaraderie and an insatiable appetite for hard work - are their principles as well.
This Carabao Cup tie, between two of the Premier League’s greatest overachievers, turned out to be a predictably tight affair. Burnley reached the third round, where they will face Millwall next week, courtesy of a performance sprinkled with quality but containing lashings of tenacity too, combined with composure during the penalty shoot out which followed when Matej Vydra had cancelled out David McGoldrick’s opener. United also demonstrated those qualities, apart from when substitute Oli McBurnie saw his spot-kick saved.
“I thought we did well, against a very strong side, with so many new faces in there for us,” Wilder said afterwards. “I know they didn’t go full hit, but most of Sean’s lads would be in or around his main group. We had lots of boys out there for the very first time and, even though we went strong too, I was pleased with what I saw from them. Not pleased with the result but with how we went about things, that gives us something really good to build on. The attitude was there and we played some really good stuff, I thought, too.”
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NOT A PRIORITY BUT DEFINITELY SIGNIFICANT
Speaking before kick-off, Wilder acknowledged that survival, not silverware, must be United’s priority this term. After all, despite finishing ninth last term - an achievement Dyche labelled “stellar” in his programme notes - they are competing against some of the richest and most powerful clubs in world football. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang earns more in a year than Wilder has spent during the summer transfer window after agreeing a new contract with Arsenal.
Still, after losing to Wolverhampton Wanderers three days earlier, this match suddenly assumed greater significance. Wilder, who likes to describe winning as a habit, did not want to enter Monday’s game at Aston Villa on the back of two straight defeats.
“We’re disappointed to go out, of course we are,” Wilder insisted. “But it was a competitive game and we’re in good spirits. We’re in a good place, going into our next one, and I thought we showed that out there. That, keeping going in the Prem, has got to be out bread and butter.”
“I respect every tournament,” Dyche added, echoing Wilder’s sentiments. “But staying in the Premier League is everything for us, and that’s why we protected players too, because of the money and the kudos. It has to be like that.”
Despite making 10 changes to their starting eleven, awarding debuts to five new signings, United did not suffer from a lack of fluency. In fact one of those making his first appearance for Wilder’s team - former Derby County defender Max Lowe - was involved in the move which saw McGoldrick break the deadlock with only five minutes gone. His centre, after Sander Berge and then Jack Robinson had powered forward and then spotted his colleague’s darting run, required only the deftest of touches to be turned home.
“I thought it was a really good goal from us, and I thought it was a really good goal from them to be fair,” Wilder said. “That’s just the way it goes sometimes. But it was great to see Didzy stick that away.”
HELPING MCGOLDRICK ACHIEVE HIS AIM
Although he is a wonderfully gifted player, creating opportunities for others with his positional sense and telepathic understanding of where space will open up, McGoldrick must now begin scoring on a more regular basis in order to cement a place in United’s attack. With Berge proving far more effective in a deeper lying role - Oliver Norwood edged out wide to create room for the Norwegian - the Republic of Ireland international appears destined to be presented with more of the type of chances he is equipped to take if Wilder persists with this shape.
After seeing Johann Berg Gudmundsson carried off on a stretcher soon after McGoldrick’s effort, Burnley grew in stature as the half progressed with substitute Erik Pieters and captain Ashley Westwood making their presence felt on numerous occasions. One of those would have resulted in a penalty, when Matej Vydra darted through and was brought down by Wes Foderingham, had an offside flag not been raised.
“I get on with Chris and Alan (Knill, United’s assistant manager) well,” Dyche said afterwards, referring to Robinson’s challenge on Gudmundsson. “I told Chris ‘Listen, in our day, that’s a standard tackle. But now, I thought it was a really bad one. Times have changed, in my day it would be a yellow. But now, I think it should have been a red.”
“It’s unfortunate,” Wilder countered. “I’ve got to admit, I’ve not seen it back. Times have changed and that used to be a stock tackle. I’ve been told it went a bit near the mark and we wish the boy the best of health.”
DEBUTANTS DO WELL
Until they become fully accustomed to the complexities of United’s system, and the choreography required to ensure it functions fluently, Ethan Ampadu, Jayden Bogle, Oliver Burke and Lowe can be forgiven a few false steps. But all four, in their own different ways, impressed as United produced a much more consistent performance than the one they had delivered 72 hours earlier.
Foderingham was not at fault for Vydra’s equaliser and did the basics well. Ampadu could have been a little closer to the Czech when Jay Rodriguez chested the ball into his path. But Rodriguez was able to divert it unchallenged, despite taking up a position in the heart of United’s area. It was a rare but understandable blemish on an otherwise solid shift from Ampadu, while Lowe and Bogle were both enterprising at wing-back. Burke, who was withdrawn on the hour, was a willing worker and adept at dropping off the shoulder of his marker before darting forward at speed.
Although Aaron Ramsdale is certain to return between the posts, Wilder now has greater room for manoeuvre in the outfield ahead of the trip to the West Midlands. Lowe in particular pressed his case for a prominent role against Dean Smith’s men.
“I thought the lads who came in, they did brilliant,” Wilder said. “I thought the two full-backs were outstanding and they all took the opportunity to impress. They’ve got to hit the ground running, because we do things a little bit differently here, and they did that. All of them. They’ve given me food for thought, which is exactly what I wanted.”
McBURNIE’S RAW DEAL
After being brought on during the closing stages, McBurnie posed a real threat to Burnley’s defence as, searching out gaps rather than acting as a target man, he twice went close at the death. Had either of those two shots gone in - the first being deflected into the side netting before fellow substitute Billy Sharp was inches away from connecting with the rebound when his second took a ricochet - McBurnie would surely have been the match winner rather than the unfortunate fall guy after Norwood had converted the first of United’s five penalties. Sharp, Berge and Ben Osborn did hit the target. But with Brady secured Burnley’s place in the third round - where they will face Millwall - after Chris Wood, Vydra, Josh Brownhill and Erik Pieters had all beaten Foderingham.
“That’s the life and times of a centre-forward,” Wilder said. “Oli will be disappointed not to have tucked his away, and we’re disappointed that we’ve not gone through. There’s not a lot wrong with us.”
Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Long, Dunne, Taylor, Gudmundsson (Pieters 14), Brownhill, Westwood (Benson 75), Brady, Rodriguez (Wood 83), Vydra. Not used: Peacock-Farrell, McNeil, Bardsley, Thomas.
Sheffield United: Foderingham, Ampadu, Jagielka, Robinson, Lowe, Bogle (Basham 87), Berge, Norwood, Osborn, McGoldrick (Sharp 60), Burke (McBurnie 60). Not used: Ramsdale, Slater, Brunt, Bryan.
Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancashire).
Penalties: Norwood (s), Wood (s), McBurnie (m), Vydra (s), Sharp (s), Brownhill (s), Berge (s), Pieters (s), Osborn (s), Brady (s).