A review of all the key injuries Sheffield United have suffered this season and verdicts on whether or not any of them were avoidable
Despite admitting they have been architects of their own downfall in a number of games so far this term, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder also says injuries have played a part in his team’s poor start to the new Premier League season.
As United prepare for Sunday’s home game against Leicester City still searching for their first win of the new campaign - losing nine and drawing one of their 10 so far - The Star’s James Shield analyses the major fitness issues which have meant Wilder has only been able to select his strongest starting eleven only twice since September and gives his verdict on whether they were avoidable.
Oli McBurnie: Despite starting the first match of the new campaign, when Wolverhampton Wanderers visited Bramall Lane in September, the Scotland centre-forward had endured a difficult warm-up programme because of a lacerated foot. A month earlier, visitors to United’s training camp near Edinburgh had watched McBurnie sit out all of the group exercises in order to build up his aerobic fitness when the wound became infected. This meant, although he faced Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, he had only completed 90 of a possible 315 pre-season minutes before being pitched into action. Verdict: Possibly but not definitely.
Lys Mousset: Mousset’s preparations were even more chaotic than McBurnie’s with the centre-forward suffering a toe injury during United’s final pre-season friendly against Preston North End. After missing the trips to Dundee United and Heart of Midlothian, Mousset played 45 minutes of the 2-0 win over Derby County before coming on as a substitute during the closing stages of United’s meeting with Alex Neil’s side but was forced off less than 30 minutes later after being injured during a challenge by Patrick Bauer. Although Wilder described the damage as minor at the time, it later transpired that Mousset, who admittedly appeared out of shape, would require surgery to recover. Verdict: No.
Jack O’Connell: One of United’s most influential players - if not the most influential, given the role he performs in their 3-5-2 system - O’Connell played only twice at the beginning of the season before being withdrawn from the firing line. The centre-half has insisted he can return to action during the first-half of next year, but Wilder is planning to be without him until May. After it was confirmed O’Connell required surgery to cure a knee problem, sources at Bramall Lane later told The Star he had been “managing” the condition, initially successfully, throughout much of his professional career. With hindsight, this was clearly becoming difficult towards the end of last season, when O’Connell’s form dropped post-lockdown. With hindsight, United might have ordered him to rest rather than try and help what proved an unsuccessful push for Europe. Verdict: No.
Max Lowe: After impressing during a Carabao Cup tie at Burnley, Lowe made his league debut for United a month later when Fulham visited Bramall Lane. But less than 20 minutes into the game the defender, who together with Jayden Bogle was signed from Derby County during the close season, was forced to leave the pitch following an accidental collision with Ruben Loftus Cheek. Lowe was later diagnosed with concussion and was forced to sit out the trip to Liverpool as a result. He returned to face Manchester City and has taken part in all three of United’s matches since. Lowe was only passed fit to return against Pep Guardiola’s side when he passed a series of medical tests. Verdict: No.
Ethan Ampadu: Signed on loan from Chelsea, the Wales international was forced to sit out United’s clash with his parent club last month. But he had featured in all of Wilder’s matchday squads this term until that point, before being injured during the second-half of United’s game against West Ham last month. Although he did not appear in serious distress when he left the pitch, the manager later revealed Ampadu had suffered a hip injury as he challenged an opponent. Despite making enough progress to undergo a late fitness test before the visit to West Bromwich Albion, Ampadu was not deemed fit enough to take part, meaning Kean Bryan was named at centre-half. Verdict: No.
John Fleck: Despite losing his place in United’s starting eleven ahead of Leeds’ visit to South Yorkshire at the end of September, the midfielder remained one of the most influential members of their squad. The decision to name him on the bench for both that game and the trip to Arsenal was, many suspected, an attempt by coaching staff to administer shock therapy treatment. But it was United, rather than the former Rangers maestro, who were left reeling when it emerged he had been injured on international duty with Scotland. The back complaint he sustained during a fall meant Fleck was unavailable when United returned to action against Fulham, and also during their next three outings, before facing West Ham last month. Verdict: No.
Enda Stevens: The Republic of Ireland international had been an ever present for United until being hurt towards the end of their defeat by Chelsea last month. Although the exact nature of Stevens’ complaint has yet to be revealed, Wilder has explained it was sustained when he made “a block tackle” to try and “prevent one of their players from scoring.” Despite hopes he would face West Ham, he missed that fixture and also the loss to West Brom. With Ampadu ruled-out at The Hawthorns, and with Stevens being asked to fill in for O’Connell at centre-half, losing the wing-back has weakened the left-hand side of United’s rearguard. Verdict: No.
Wes Foderingham: Previously of Rangers, Foderingham arrived at United to provide competition and cover for fellow new arrival Aaron Ramsdale. Like Stevens, he had featured in all of Wilder’s squads until damaging a hand during training. He has not appeared on the team sheet since then, with Michael Verrips taking his place on the bench for United’s last six games. Verdict: No.