Sander Berge, Rhian Brewster's new song and don't mention the VAR: Talking points from Sheffield United's opening-day defeat to Birmingham City

It was opening-day disappointment for Sheffield United as the Slavisa Jokanović era began with defeat at home to Birmingham City on Saturday evening.

Sunday, 8th August 2021, 6:36 pm

In front of over 29,000 fans back in Bramall Lane, Maxime Colin ensured it was an unhappy homecoming for the majority of them as he headed the first-half winner to condemn the Blades to defeat.

Here are some of the talking points from the game…

Sander the great

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

One moment of play on Berge’s Championship debut highlighted both the quality the young man possesses, and the learning he still has to do the longer he remains in the second tier.

Under pressure from Gary Gardner and Tahith Chong down near the right touchline, Berge pirouetted beautifully away from the former before nicking the ball past the latter. But a touch from the Manchester United loanee sent Berge off balance and although it would have been a foul in the Premier League, and was probably one in the Championship, one wasn’t given and Birmingham fashioned a chance from it.

Berge was chipped away at all night by his opponents – Ryan Woods had about five goes at fouling him, all in one motion, and saw yellow for his colours – and when he did roam free, he was a danger to the City defence all evening.

Moose cut loose

Despair for David McGoldrick after United’s opening-day defeat: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

After his goal-laden pre-season, it was no surprise to see Mousset start up front for the first game and his pace, power and direct running caused Roberts and Dean problems.

He almost set-up a tap in for John Fleck with a remarkably pacy run down the right touchline and may feel he could have done better after being slipped in down the right of the City defence, as his shot flashed across the face of goal.

But Mousset’s race was run in the 50th minute when he appeared to stretch too far to reach Oli Burke’s cross and signalled that he couldn’t continue. He walked off gingerly, Jokanović later suggested it may be a hamstring issue and if he is missing for any great length of time, it will be a big blow for the club and a player who needs to start showing the performances his talent suggest he is capable of.

Don’t mention the VAR

It became a dirty word, or acronym, during United’s time in the Championship but how they could have done with VAR in this game, as they were denied at least one and probably two penalties in the second half.

The first came when John Fleck’s shot hit Gardner’s arm and the second when Chong had a nibble at Berge in the area, after lunging for and missing the ball.

Both appeals were waved away by referee Tim Robinson, and replays suggested either – or both - could easily have been given. Last season they’d certainly have been looked at again but there’s no VAR in the Championship, for the time being at least, so we’ll never know.

After the early moments of the game, the biggest roar of the evening came when Brewster came off the bench to replace Mousset and there was even an early rendition of his new Kop chant, to the tune of the Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me?’

His wait for a first United goal continues but by the looks of his reception here, that hasn’t dampened any of the enthusiasm for him on the terraces. United’s fans know their football and probably realise that Brewster is a young man with bags of talent and a good recent record in this division, but is low on confidence and needs a goal. When it comes, and if it’s at Bramall Lane, expect the roof to come off the Kop…