Sheffield United 1-2 Leicester City 2: The Key Talking Points

The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield takes a look at some of the issues to emerge from today's game.

Friday, 23rd August 2019, 4:08 pm
Updated Saturday, 24th August 2019, 7:07 pm
The Star's football writer James Shield: Scott Merrylees

When the Dust Settles

Yes, United will be disappointed with the result. They entered the match unbeaten, albeit it after only two games, but finished it having tasted defeat for the first time since Bristol City's 3-2 triumph here in March. With a visit to Chelsea next on the agenda, they must now dig deep to avoid a second successive set-back. City, though, quietly fancy their chances of challenging for a European place. So context and perspective is required. Neither Wilder nor his counterpart Brendan Rodgers appeared too happy with aspects of their respective teams' first half performances. But the fact it required a wonderful strike from Harvey Barnes to settle the contest will, when the dust finally settles, be a source of encouragement. Particularly as United know they can perform a while lot better.

Beaten by a Moment of Magic

Barnes' goal - after Oli McBurnie had cancelled-out Jamie Vardy's opener - was a joy to behold. Well, for City supporters and the handful of neutrals probably inside the stadium. It was made even better by the fact Barnes had only just stepped onto the pitch as a second-half substitute, with Rodgers delving deep into his tactical box of tricks to try and prevent United seizing the fixture by the scruff of the neck. Christian Fuchs made inroads down the flank, crossed the ball deep into the box and when Caglar Soyuncu headed it out, Barnes did the rest. Dean Henderson was powerless to prevent his first-time effort nearly tearing the back of United's net.

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A Collectors Item

The first-half proved to be a real collectors item. Albeit not for reasons Oliver Norwood, usually United's most reliable midfielder, will care to remember. The former Northern Ireland international, who retired form Michael O'Neill's squad earlier this week, was far from a shambles. But neither was he at his irresistible best; when both the pace of the game and its direction of travel appear under his command. To his credit, Norwood contributed in other ways, making his presence felt with a series of tigerish tackles. But it was John Lundstram, fresh from scoring the match-winning goal against Crystal Palace last weekend, who initially emerged as United's most influential member of their partnership.

The Southgate Suite anyone?

Is Gareth Southgate taking up residence at Bramall Lane? Six days after watching United beat Palace 1-0, he was back again, sitting next to Wilder's friend and predecessor Dave Basset in the directors' box. Although Hamza Choudhury and James Maddison will both have been of interest to the England manager, he will surely have resolved to keep an eye on Dean Henderson, Jack O'Connell and possibly George Baldock too. Southgate has already admitted that Henderson, preciously capped at under-21 level, is on the senior squad's "radar". Some people will scoff at the idea but who is to say that his team mates can not eventually force themselves into the reckoning if they perform consistently at Premier League level?

McBurnie on Point

Despite being restricted to appearances off the bench so far, McBurnie will be relieved to open his United account. The result won't please him but, after becoming the club's record signing during the close season, he will be relieved to get off the mark. The former Swansea City centre-forward's introduction, alongside his fellow striker Billy Sharp, brought a different dynamic to United's play. With the switch working a treat - until Barnes restored City's advantage - it will be interesting to see if they are paired together from the start when Wilder's team returns to league action at Chelsea later this month. Certainly, the United manager will find it tougher to omit McBurnie from his first choice eleven now.