Sander Berge, Mike Dean and set-piece woes - SIX ups and downs from Sheffield United's 2-0 defeat to Wolves
Sheffield United's 2020/21 Premier League season got off to an inauspicious start when Wolverhampton Wanderers went two goals up inside the first six minutes at Bramall Lane last night.
But manager Chris Wilder thought that United's performance after those early blows showed the depth of character contained within his squad. Here, we take a look at some of the positives and negatives from the game...
It could have been worse
Many teams, after that nightmare start, may have gone under and find themselves three or four down by half-time. But thanks to a combination of decent stops from Aaron Ramsdale and a bit of fortune when Wolves twice hit the post, the scoreline after 90 minutes was the same as it had been after six.
Conceding two goals inside the first six minutes of his league debut for the Blades, in the top-flight after a big-money move, wouldn't have been what Ramsdale was dreaming about when he went to bed on Sunday night. But it's a measure of his character, too, that he didn't go under, and made a decent save from Raul Jiminez at the Kop end in the first half. There was an even better one in the second, when he pushed Romain Saïss' shot onto his left-hand post, and the youngster deserves a lot of credit for fronting-up and facing the media after the game, too.
Returning to action after the knee injury he picked up on international duty, Berge's cameo off the bench was one of the positives for United. He looked a class above any of his fellow midfielders on the night, striding forward with the ball and using it intelligently by linking up well with George Baldock down the right wing. He’s still learning the position but has the qualities to be a success in the RCM position that John Lundstram occupied from the start on Monday.
Wolves' second came from a corner, as Jack O'Connell nudged Enda Stevens off-balance and Saïss headed home, and they could have extended that when Jiminez lost Oli McBurnie at a corner and headed against the near post. It was uncharacteristic of the Blades to be so defensively lax - a stat on Twitter yesterday said that United conceded five per cent of the goals they let in during 2019-20, inside the first 0.18 per cent of the new season - and their work from offensive set-pieces wasn't much better, either.
Love him or hate him, there can be no denying that Dean is a quality ref and showed his class in the second half, when John Egan fouled Jiminez. Egan was already on a booking and more card-happy refs in the Premier League wouldn't have hesitated in sending him off. But Dean took a breath and instead gave Egan a final warning, which he obviously heeded.
A quick turnaround
How does Wilder react to this when his side travel to Burnley on Thursday in the Carabao Cup? He already indicated that Oli Burke will make his United debut, but it could be a good chance to see the likes of Ethan Ampadu and Jayden Bogle in a United shirt at Turf Moor.