Sheffield United 2-0 Aston Villa: What did we learn from today's win over Dean Smith's side?

Two goals from John Fleck saw Sheffield United beat Aston Villa at Bramall Lane this afternoon. The Star’s James Shield analyses some of the key themes to emerge from today’s match.

Saturday, 14th December 2019, 5:06 pm
The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield: cott Merrylees

The benefit of making things up as you go along: Speaking beforehand, Wilder had described this fixture as being a potential “crackerjack.” In truth, until Fleck turned home soon after the re-start, it proved anything but. Despite the wealth of attacking talent at their disposal, Villa were intent on frustrating United; only occasionally venturing forward on the counter. United probed and enjoyed plenty of possession. But seldom looked like being able to break the visitors down. Then, just as organisation rather than artistry looked set to win the day, a wonderful piece of improvisation created the chance which Fleck converted. It came from Chris Basham, whose backheel released John Lundstram and allowed him to provide the assist. Sometimes, it really does pay to just tear up the tactics book at make it up as you go along.

Just think about it son: As a footballer, Jack Grealish is a joy to watch. Undoubtedly one of the most naturally gifted youngsters in the Premier League today. As an acrobat and an actor, he is even better. Unfortunately for him, not that too many players in the game seem overly bothered, he will never be held in the high esteem he deserves so long as he continues to take a tumble whenever an opponent dares to brush against his shirt. Which is a shame, became the midfielder’s skills deserve to be celebrated. When Didier Drogba first arrived at Chelsea, John Terry told the Ivorian that his theatrics were unacceptable in the English game. It worked. Perhaps Terry, now Villa’s assistant head coach, should have a word in Jack’s shell-like too?

And even more annoying than that: Referee Peter Bankes strode around the pitch with the air of a man who knew, despite trying to exude an air of authority, that everything he touched was liable to turn to….well, you get drift. He isn’t a bad official. Clearly, given the fact he is now overseein g top-flight fixtures, the powers-that-be think he is one of England’s best. But he was far too fussy during the opening period, booking both Oliver Norwood and John Fleck for what appeared to be routine challenges. The latter now misses next weekend’s visit to Brighton and Hove Albion as a result.

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The boy is doing good: Fleck will sit out United’s trip to The AMEX Stadium, after collecting his fifth booking of the Premier League season. Which is a shame because the Scot, who has long been told he really should score more, is now doing exactly that. Earlier this term, Wilder told the former Coventry City player that he has “a wand of a left foot.” His second of the game, and fourth of the campaign so far, was the result of a perfectly placed finish following David McGoldrick’s superb assist. Fleck’s first finish, however, was more of a sledgehammer as he powered home from close range. If he can maintain the same form in front of goal, Fleck will be the complete midfielder.

Six minutes in the life of: David McGoldrick. After producing a pass to enable United to double their lead, the Republic of Ireland international, who remains without a goal in the Premier League this term, struck Tom Heaton’s legs from close-range. Yes, McGoldrick should have scored. Yes, his finishing can frustrate. But the piece of skill he produced to send Fleck scampering through proved why he is worth his weight in gold to this United team.