Sheffield United: Why Brendan Rodgers was so complimentary about Chris Wilder's side

Having spent the summer desperately trying to play down their top eight credentials, it would be easy to accuse Brendan Rodgers of being overly diplomatic when he described the three points his Leicester City side secured at Bramall Lane as possibly the most significant his team have collected so far this term.

Friday, 23rd August 2019, 15:58 pm
Updated Sunday, 25th August 2019, 13:11 pm
Leicester City's Harvey Barnes: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Drawing with Wolverhampton Wanderers, another team with genuine aspirations of challenging for a Europa League place, was a pretty good way to start the campaign. Sharing the spoils at Chelsea, who host Chris Wilder's squad this weekend, will also have delighted the Northern Irishman.

But Rodgers' assertion that a combination of factors meant United posed just as big a threat as their rivals from the Midlands or west London was rooted in more than simply a desire to curry favour with the locals. After all, he reminded, Wilder's players had entered the game unbeaten at Bramall Lane since the end of March.

"It was a great win for us because Sheffield United have built up real momentum,"Rodgers said. "We showed a good mentality because, as we knew beforehand, we had to be resilient.

Brendan Rodgers at Bramall Lane: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"So I thought the performance was good in terms of the character we showed. That was a very important three points for us."

When Oli McBurnie cancelled-out Jamie Vardy's first-half strike, it appeared as if City were destined to leave South Yorkshire still searching for their first win of the new Premier League campaign. But substitute Harvey Barnes' finish transformed a solid start into something a lot more impressive. The visitors instead returned home in third; albeit only a point better off than United.

Like Wilder, Rodgers felt his side had fallen below their usual high standards before the interval. Whether or not that could be attributed to the sweltering conditions, the relentless pace of the fixture or too much mutual respect will remain open to debate. But not the fact that City took the lead because they were more ruthless than United, who spurned two good chances themselves either side of Vardy's strike. The one Jack O'Connell passed-up, after finding himself unmarked at the far post following an Oliver Norwood corner, was arguably the best of the opening period.

James Maddison was name-checked by Rodgers for his part in the move which put the former England international through following a mistake in midfield. The qualtiy of Barnes' strke - after Çağlar Söyüncü had nodded Christian Fuch's centre into his path - also pleased him. But under the watchful eye of England manager Gareth Southgate, it was Hamza Choudhury who emerged as City's most influential performer. The youngster worked tirelessly in midfield to build the platform his more creative colleagues used as a springboard towards success.

Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

"There aren't too many players who could play the pass that James did for our first goal," Rodgers said. "That through ball was sensational. The ball fell into his path and then he did what we does best.

"Harvey is a big talent and he's going to be a very important player. To come into the game and find that technique, after only just coming on, I thought that was brilliant."

"I thought we were a bit slow in terms of our passing in the first-half and we gave it away a little," Rodgers added. "They were a threat. I thought Hamza was brilliant today, breaking the game up. We had to change the system. When they got the goal, the momentum was with them."