One of the game's greatest names playing in the cradle of football against Internazionale.
Luciano Spalletti, the Italian giants' head coach, might not agree with the billing several social media wags
gave this match. But, after producing a characteristically tenacious and adventurous display, Sheffield United certainly command his respect.
With new signings John Egan and David McGoldrick in their starting eleven, United posed plenty of questions before the visitors' class became apparent during the closing stages. Indeed, when McGoldrick broke the deadlock midway through the opening period, it appeared an upset might be on the cards.
Although Mauro Icardi quickly put paid to that idea, the overwhelming majority of a near 19,000 strong crowd will approach the new season with confidence given their team's determination, tenacity and, even though this was a friendly, ability to create openings despite Spalletti's embarrassment of riches. Only a fine reaction save from Samir Handanovic denied Billy Sharp a late winner and his colleagues their biggest ever scalp.
Chris Wilder's warning that Inter would dominate possession turned out to be improvident rather than prescient. Still, despite scoreline and all of United's good work, facing the 18-time Serie A title winners proved to be an education for the Championship club. With Antonio Candreva, Lautaro Martinez and Mauro Icardi at their disposal, the way Spalletti's men moved around the pitch and closed down space was a lesson in itself.
Thinking several moves ahead, they went about their business with the strategy and scheming of a chess grandmaster. Roberto Gagliardini, Inter's 24-year-old midfielder, was particularly cunning.
Plenty had been written about how last night's fixture, the high point of United's pre-season preparations, would be a memorable experience for Wilder and his side. After all, despite their litany of recent achievements, opportunities to rub shoulders with players of Champions League calibre are still few and far between. Still, it was heartening to learn that the visitors were aware of the contest's significance too. Andrea Ranocchia,
Inter's vice-captain, spoke in almost deferential terms about both the history of the stadium and the city's contribution to his profession before arriving in South Yorkshire. It was a reminder that, although they might not be a member of Europe's elite, United still punch well above their weight.
It was fitting, given the stature of the opposition, that United chose this fixture to mark the official unveiling of the Tony Currie Stand. Officially the club's greatest ever player, the former England international cut an emotional figure ahead of kick-off as, flanked by friends, family and old team mates, he described the decision as an even greater honour than any of his 17 caps. Currie could do magic and, as Inter discovered,
McGoldrick can too. His eye-catching finish set the tone for an evening of superb entertainment. The pass from Martinez which fashioned Icardi's equaliser - swept through a crowd of defenders with the outside of his foot - was even more memorable.
Inter, who lost their Brazilian defender Estevao Dalbert to injury during the opening exchanges, travelled to
England on the back of a 3-3 draw with Spalletti's former club Zenit St Petersburg. On paper, United appeared a much more routine assignment for a squad which, by the Tuscan's own admission, is still striving for "fitness and conditioning." However, after seeing Estevao Dalbert carried-off on a stretcher with only five minutes gone, Inter discovered beating the hosts would prove anything but. Indeed, following a lengthy break in play, it was United who took charge with McGoldrick creating a half chance for Leon Clarke.
Seemingly nonchalant back heels have been a feature of the attacker's game since his arrival on trial and, after agreeing a permanent contract earlier in the day, he produced another from his locker to find Clarke inside the penalty area but the shot was deflected wide. McGoldrick, though, was not to be denied and his delicate chip over the advancing Handanovic gave United a 28th minute lead. Enda Stevens and John Fleck also took a bow after expertly combining to prise open Inter's defence. The lead remained intact for only seven minutes when Martinez's superb through ball presented Icardi with the type of chance centre-forward's of his class do not miss.
Henderson denied the Argentine a second following another lightning quick interchange involving Candreva and Martinez while Sharp was also thwarted during the closing stages.
Sheffield United: Henderson (Moore 46), Baldock (Freeman 79), Stevens, Egan (Stearman 72), Fleck, O'Connell, Basham, Lundstram (Duffy 60), L Evans, McGoldrick (Holmes 72), Clarke (Sharp 79). Not used: Lavery, Norrington-Davies.
Internazionale: Handanovic, Gagliardini, De Vrij (Ranocchia 70), Icardi (Gavolio 78), Martinez (Colidio 78), Asamoah, Dalbert (Roric 5), D'Ambrosio, Skriniar, Emmers (Pompetti 88), Candreva (Zappa 64). Not used: , Padelli, Colidio, Berni, Dokic, D'Amico, Gavolio, Nolan, Demirovic.
Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside).
Goals: McGoldrick, Icardi.