Doncaster Rovers 0 Sheffield United 4: Lys Mousset sends a message to Slavisa Jokanovic as Blades cruise to another pre-season victory
Two Tribes, Ready to Go by Republica and a stadium announcer turning it up to eleven when he read out the teams beforehand, this match was given the proper big match treatment rather than the type of half-hearted preamble which usually kicks-off friendly games.
Because that’s precisely what it was. For both Sheffield United and Doncaster Rovers. A fixture which had suddenly grown in significance for all sorts of different reasons.
On the visitors’ part, tonight’s date at the Keepmoat Stadium provided Slavisa Jokanovic with a chance to watch his team on a pitch. The Serb’s opportunities to do so have been limited over the past week, with a Covid-19 scare forcing the closure of United’s training complex less than a month into his reign. But Jokanovic, whose opposite number Richie Wellens included no fewer than seven trialists in his squad, should be satisfied with the progress which is clearly being made.
United’s margin of victory was comfortable, with Lys Mousset scoring twice and Oliver Burke and substitute Luke Freeman also on target. But even more encouraging was the fact their football wasn’t just aesthetically pleasing. It was pretty damn effective and ruthless too.
Jokanovic, a promotion winner with both Watford and Fulham before enjoying a two year spell in Qatar, is still learning about the options he inherited after returning to England.
But on the evidence of the meeting with Rovers and the win over Europa Point earlier this month, a number of themes are already beginning to emerge. Encouraged to play out from the back - sometimes in surprisingly elaborate fashion - Jokanovic is clearly someone happy to take risks. So long, as United did three times before the break, they bring tangible rewards.
Although Wellens will have been distraught by the defending which presented United with three first-half goals, Jokanovic later argued it was the intensity of their press which forced the errors.
Twenty-five minutes had passed when Burke slid the ball into an empty net, after Rovers’ Louis Jones had been sold horrendously short by a cross-cum-back pass. Ten later, Mousset did the same following a mistimed clearance before slicing straight through the middle seconds before the interval to claim his third in two warm-up games.
The Frenchman, whose fitness and conditioning have been a cause for concern throughout his time at Bramall Lane, doesn’t look svelte. But he does appear sharp and seemingly determined to make the most of the fresh start Jokanovic’s presence in the dug-out has afforded him.
By again selecting three centre-forwards rather than the two favoured by his predecessor Chris Wilder, Jokanovic now appears certain to adopt the same strategy when United attempt to regain the Premier League status they surrendered last term at the first time of asking.
It means whenever they attack, they do so in numbers. Sander Berge, making his return from injury, substitute Rhian Brewster and Jack Robinson all went close as United flooded the Rovers’ area before Luke Freeman nodded home a fourth late on.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale (Foderingham 46), Baldock (Gordon 68), Fleck (Lopata 68), Berge (Basham 46), Mousset (Brewster 46), Egan (Lowe 68), Burke, Norwood (Slater 68), McGoldrick (Jebbison 68), Robinson (Seriki 68, Bogle 79)), Osborn (Brunt 68).