Sheffield United: Why Kieran Dowell, who could be in line to start the Steel City derby against Sheffield Wednesday, is succeeding where other loanees have failed
His performances speak for themselves but, as Kieran Dowell prepares for the the biggest game of his fledging career, Chris Wilder has cited attitude as the reason why the midfielder is thriving at Bramall Lane while other loanees from Premier League clubs have failed to make a positive impression.
After scoring the winning goal at West Bromwich Albion last weekend, Dowell hopes to make his second consecutive start for United when they visit Hillsborough for Monday's derby against Sheffield Wednesday.
It is a measure of the 21-year-old's progress since arriving from Everton eight weeks ago that choosing between Dowell and Mark Duffy, one of the heroes of last term's away win over Wednesday, represents arguably Wilder's toughest selection dilemma ahead of the meeting with Steve Bruce's side.
United signed Dowell after allowing Ben Woodburn to return to Liverpool following an underwhelming spell in South Yorkshire.
Although a combination of politeness and protocol has persuaded Wilder not to speak publicly about the reasons why Woodburn failed to live-up to his reputation at United, he did identify focus and attention to detail as factors behind Dowell's success so far. Particularly, the manager admitted, given the unusual system United employ.
"Kieran has been outstanding," Wilder said. "The way we play, to pick it up quickly is great. He is going to be a good player.
"The good thing about it is that his attitude, coming from a Premier League club, is one that we have to make sure is right for our group. We did our homework and thought it would be right, but he has cemented it with the way he has acted and performed Monday to Friday and on match days."
"He has obviously scored for (Nottingham) Forest last year and that caught our attention with what he did," Wilder added. "He scored against us and we tried to get him in the summer when we lost David Brooks (to AFC Bournemouth)."
By choosing to highlight Dowell's time on loan at the City Ground, where he was on target 10 times in 43 appearances, Wilder inadvertently revealed why both he and his coaching staff suspect the England under-21 international is succeeding where the likes of Woodburn and, to a lesser extent, James Wilson failed.
Woodburn, despite being capped by Wales at senior level, was embarking upon his first loan away from his parent club when United secured his services last summer. Wilson, still of Manchester United but now representing Aberdeen, had spent time away from Old Trafford but had played little first team football for nearly two years ahead of his switch to Bramall Lane.
"We managed to get him in January and I am delighted with all the players we have brought into the club whether in the summer or then," Wilder, who also recruited Gary Madine and Scott Hogan last month, said. "We are a lot stronger and powerful group now."
United are preparing for their trip to Wednesday in second, 10 places and 17 points ahead of the hosts.
"There is still a lot of football to be played," Wilder said. "The next one is all that matters. That's the only thing we are focused on."