Everyone knew Dean Henderson would start next term at Bramall Lane. But they were still moved by every plot twist.
Earlier today, when the goalkeeper's season long loan move from Manchester United was confirmed, it marked the end of a three month saga which has delighted and frustrated the audience in equal measure. After helping Sheffield United win promotion earlier this year following another temporary transfer, arranging Henderson's return initially appeared simple given the youngster's public statements and social media postings. Instead, despite listening to him volubly express his desire to play for their club at the highest level, United were forced to enroll on a crash course in the brinkmanship, politics and PR spin which are now par for the course in Premier League football.
"I'm delighted and over the moon to be back," Henderson said after being officially unveiled by Chris Wilder's side at the Steelphalt Academy. "I can't wait to get going.
"Listen, it's a good fit all round. For me, for us and for Manchester United. To hopefully play week in week out in the Premier League, it's a great opportunity."
Wilder, the United manager, had made no secret of his determination to strike another deal for Henderson after watching him keep over 20 clean sheets in the Championship last season. But if the 51-year-old suspected it would be easy to broker, he was sorely mistaken. Indeed, with events at Old Trafford forcing Henderson to miss United's opening four friendlies of their summer warm-up programme, Wilder used his post-match interviews following Tuesday's visit to Chesterfield to issue warning.
"Yes, there's a cut-off point," he said. "We have to consider alternative options."
Privately, Wilder had no intention of carrying out his threat. It was simply a ploy designed to speed-up the negotiation process. Indeed, the fact he has waited for so long speaks volumes about his admiration for Henderson as both a person and a player. Likewise, the fact United supporters have lived every moment of the story.
"Every year has been a step up and this is one I've been waiting for my whole life," Henderson, who helped Shrewsbury Town reach the League One play-offs before joining United, said. "For me to do that with Sheffield United in the Premier League is an honour."
During United's promotion winning celebrations, Henderson made it clear his immediate future lay in South Yorkshire, preferring to play regular football rather than sit on the bench at Old Trafford. But with his contract set to expire and David de Gea attracting admiring glances from Paris St Germain, Manchester United refused to let him leave until they received an undertakings from Henderson and the Spaniard. With Henderson's agent understandably intent on ensuring his client is well renumerated, talks continued throughout the recent UEFA under-21 Championships, where the 22-year-old had been summoned by Young Lions' head coach Aidy Boothroyd. The figures involved could have, although this has not been confirmed, impacted upon the size of the investment United have made to acquire Henderson's services again.
"I've had lots of experiences to build on," Henderson said. "You take the positives out of them and you learn, you take the positives out of it. It's exciting times ahead for everyone with Sheffield United and it's one we thoroughly deserve."