How Sheffield United will overcome loss of Oli McBurnie for Newcastle United clash
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A harsh yellow card and the subsequent red robs Sheffield United of a very important player when they welcome Newcastle United to Bramall Lane tomorrow.
Oli McBurnie’s telling the referee, in last week’s heartbreaking defeat to Tottenham, that he’d had his shirt pulled somehow warranted a caution and so United will have to shake things up at the top end of the pitch - an area where there aren’t too many options available.
And while manager Paul Heckingbottom acknowledges that McBurnie’s aerial threat and his physicality will be a huge miss for the Blades against Eddie Howe’s side, he is also keen to hammer home the point that aside from the size and strength of the striker, there’s a lot more to him.
“He’ll be missed, and I think the frustration from us is why he is missing,” said Heckingbottom. “I think there’s been an acknowledgement that it was a harsh decision, a wrong decision. We can’t appeal yellow cards, it’s been dealt with and we have to deal with it.
“The dynamic changes, in the games where we got him back, he has added a presence. He’s a difficult and different proposition for centre backs in the Premier League and people think it’s just his physicality. He has that and you seen that against Spurs, his dominance in the air but he’s a good footballer so he’s part of what we do with the ball as well and how we are building it up.”
McBurnie is a unique player in the United ranks, for all the reasons Heckingbottom states but the boss doesn’t want to disrupt how they play because one player is unavailable. However, he does realise there is a very obvious tweak that will need to be made. There’ll be far fewer balls fired into the air.
“We missed him early on in the season, him and Cam (Archer) were doing well together, so yeah it’s an opportunity for someone else to form another partnership with Cam.
“It changes the dynamic but we can’t change our approach because of one player. I think what Oli does is he adds a presence - in the box people are mindful. If a team goes to press as we go that little bit longer, he is a presence holding the ball up. So in that respect, probably [things will be different].
“When we have Oli in the team we don’t have to change too much because he is a footballer as well; we like to play into his feet and he’s arguably one of the best at looking after the ball when we play in.
“We probably will be playing shorter, we probably will be playing into feet more but not too much different to Oli because he’s very good at that. It’s just more of a fact that if we are not adding height at the top end of the pitch, it’s pointless doing it any other way.”