Sheffield United gave Iliman Ndiaye a pep talk before his latest virtuoso display, their manager reveals
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After scoring for the 13th time this season at the beginning of what proved to be a tougher than expected contest against Wigan Athletic, Ndiaye confirmed his status as the most exciting player in the Championship by producing an attacking masterclass.
Despite describing the 23-year-old as an “exceptional talent” who appears destined to forge a career at the highest level, Paul Heckingbottom revealed both he and head of player development Jack Lester had given the youngster a pep talk ahead of the meeting with Shaun Maloney’s side after expressing concerns about aspects of his game over the past month.
“Because he’s scored and won the match for us,” the United manager told The Star, “Iliman will rightly get the plaudits and the attention. Still, he’s had some criticism from me of late about not getting enough shots off, not getting into the box enough and not making the most of some of the promising positions he’s found himself in.
“Jack put on a presentation for him, showing Iliman where he needs to be better and why he can be better. He’s an exceptional talent, we all know that, and his goals can win games. But we also want him to be effective for the team and, from our perspective, that’s exactly what he was out there.”
“In terms of what we want from Iliman,” Heckingbottom continued, “That was much more like it.”
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United appeared on course for a comfortable victory when Ndiaye prodded home James McAtee’s cross during the opening exchanges. However, despite creating a series of opportunities, Heckingbottom’s men could not put the contest to bed. Second in the table with seven matches remaining, they deserved to beat opponents who remain at the foot of the division. But Heckingbottom, looking ahead to Monday’s visit to leaders Burnley, admitted he always suspected Shaun Maloney’s team would pose a more difficult challenge than their league position suggested.
“They fight and they are in with a great shout (of staying up),” Heckingbottom said. “It is definitely possible for them.”