Sheffield United: Boss makes a brutally frank admission about Manchester City star

He has been likened to David Silva and admits the Spaniard, a former team mate at Manchester City, is one of his footballing idols.

Friday, 5th August 2022, 9:00 am

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Sheffield United: They key messages from Paul Heckingbottom's press conference a...

But James McAtee, whose loan move to Sheffield United has been completed ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Millwall, is still far from the finished article Paul Heckingbottom stressed last night.

Indeed, mindful of the weight of expectation likely to weigh on the teenager’s shoulder if such talk is allowed to go unchallenged, United’s manager stressed “potential” was the driving force behind his interest in the midfielder. Not a belief that McAtee can immediately master the art of Championship football.

David Silva, the former Manchester City star: Justin Tallis/Pool via Getty Images

“We are talking about potential,” Heckingbottom said, after the 19-year-old was officially presented to the media yesterday. “This is exactly what I spoke about with James. He has to come here and impact the Championship, one of the toughest leagues in the world in my eyes, and do it against some top players who will be doing everything in their power to stop him.

“He’s not at City still, where he’s going to have about 70 percent possession every single game. But this is a big opportunity for him and one we want - and expect - him to take on.”

Capped by England at under-21 and youth level, McAtee is available to face Gary Rowett’s side although Heckingbottom suggested he could be granted more time to train with his new colleagues before being handed a starting role.

James McAtee signs for Sheffield United from Manchester City on loan: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Highly regarded as the Etihad Stadium, where according to the player himself, Pep Guardiola has challenged him to eventually “come back” and “challenge” for a first team place, McAtee cited Silva, Jack Wilshere and Phil Foden as three of the players he admires the most. Silva, who spent 10 seasons at City before joining Real Sociedad, is a particular influence.

“I’m pleased to get it over the line and we made sure the relevant people knew there was interest,” said Heckinbottom, tracing McAtee’s journey to South Yorkshire. “But, at the time, he was focused on getting into the Manchester City squad.

“James and his representatives did their homework and so did we. We were up against some stiff competition: Premier League clubs and big teams from abroad. You only have to listen to how highly Manchester City rate him to know that he’s got quality. I also flipped it and spoke to him about the challenge of coming here.”

McAtee himself admitted he still has plenty to learn and room for improvement when he was officially presented to the media; citing “goals” and physicality as two key areas.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Although his presence has raised fears that Sander Berge is almost certain to depart before next month’s transfer deadline, Heckingbottom stressed, as far as he is concerned, that is not the case.

However the Norway international - “A totally different player” - is known to remain unsettled following United’s defeat in last term’s play-off semi-finals. Despite that, Heckingbottom selected Berge for Monday’s trip to Watford which saw United begin the new campaign with a 1-0 defeat.

“We expect Sander to be all round,” he said. “We moved him higher up last year because of where we found ourselves with players. We want more dynamic(s) and more options.”