Sheffield United: 'If we want to go up, Billy Sharp can not be an automatic first choice'

Slavisa Jokanovic wants centre-forwards Oli McBurnie, Lys Mousset and Rhian Brewster to leave him facing a major dilemma about who should spearhead Sheffield United’s attack following the international break despite seeing Billy Sharp nail down the role in recent weeks.

By James Shield
Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 5:00 am

After being directly involved in nearly half of the goals United have scored in the Championship this season, Sharp, aged 35, is set to start Saturday’s match against Stoke City at Bramall Lane.

But Jokanovic is urging the other strikers at his disposal to ensure the veteran is not an automatic first choice, as United attempt to force themselves into promotion contention following a chequered start to the campaign.

“At the moment it is Billy,” admitted the Serb, who took charge of United in July. “But we have Oli, we have Rhian and we have others here, other very good players too.

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“Billy is in right now. But the rest, they have to make sure they are ready if we decide to make a change or need to make a change. That is what you must do - always show that you should be playing when you train and when you come on. We do not want it (picking a side) to be easy. It isn’t. And if we are to achieve what we are aiming for, then it can never be that way. It can not happen.”

McBurnie and Mousset, who recently recovered from the injury, both featured during United’s defeat by AFC Bournemouth earlier this month. Although their form and results have improved of late, that loss was their second in as many outings having also been beaten by Middlesbrough four days earlier.

Sheffield, England, 25th September 2021. Billy Sharp of Sheffield Utd celebrates scoring the winning goal during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Mousset struck the woodwork after being introduced, and is known to have impressed Jokanovic and his coaching staff with his performances during United’s summer warm-up programme.

But the former Watford and Fulham chief, appointed following their relegation from the Premier League, has also gone out of his way to praise McBurnie’s contributions off the bench - suggesting he is in pole position to step-in should Sharp become available for selection or suffer a loss of form.

Sheffield, England, 21st September 2021. Oli McBurnie of Sheffield Utd during the Carabao Cup match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Darren Staples / Sportimage
Sheffield, England, 7th August 2021. Lys Mousset of Sheffield Utd goes off injured during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis / Sportimage