Sheffield United: The man responsible for masterminding their last away defeat plays host to The Blades this weekend
Three hundred and thirty two days ago, Sheffield United were last beaten away from home when Swansea City, following a keenly contested match at the Liberty Stadium, briefly put their march towards the Premier League on hold.
The man responsible for masterminding that defeat - former Ostersunds head coach Graham Potter - will be in the opposition dug-out again this weekend. His presence, after taking charge of Brighton and Hove Albion during the close season, adds an extra layer of intrigue to a fixture which could see Chris Wilder’s side stretch their unbroken run on the road to 18 matches; a quite remarkable achievement given they have travelled to the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham and Chelsea during the intervening period.
Although the stage and many of the characters involved have changed, United will study the plotline of that fixture in South Wales ahead of Saturday’s visit to the AMEX Stadium. At City, Potter modus operandi revolved around trying to dominate possession. It remains the same, despite his different surroundings, eleven months on. Albion last enjoyed less of the ball than a top-flight opponent when they dispatched Spurs 3-0 at the beginning of October.
Speaking after United’s defeat to City, Wilder attributed the result to their failure to exploit the chances they created during an otherwise “outstanding” first-half display.
“We controlled the game,” he said. “But we allowed them to establish a foothold. I should have been making changes to see out the match rather than trying to get back into it.”
The player responsible for applying the finishing touch to the “quality” move which ultimately did for United was Oli McBurnie; turning home Nathan Dyer’s cross following an exquisite exchange with Mike van der Hoorn. McBurnie went on to join Wilder’s squad following its promotion from the Championship and could be tasked, as the 52-year-old prepares to renew his rivalry with Potter, with ensuring they do not fall into the same trap again.
With United retaining the same strategy which proved so successful in the second tier - albeit with one or two subtle tweaks - Potter’s comments following City’s 1-0 victory could also provide a clue as to how Albion will approach this fixture.
“We managed to stretch the game a little bit,” he said, after conceding United had dominated before the interval. “Oli played deeper and was able to get involved in a few more combinations so we had more of a threat going behind.”