Sheffield United: Manager already knows the secret of success against Fulham

One of only eight teams to beat Fulham in the Championship this term, Sheffield United already know the formula for success against Marco Silva’s side.

Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 3:35 pm

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So Paul Heckingbottom, who masterminded December’s 1-0 victory over the Championship’s champions, will be boosted by the knowledge 12 of those who featured at Craven Cottage are available for Saturday’s return in South Yorkshire.

United, who enter the final match of the regular season schedule fifth in the table and two points above seventh placed Middlesbrough, know play-off qualification is now in their own hands following an impressive run of form since the 44-year-old appointment six months ago.

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Despite seeing a spate of injuries threaten to derail their push for a top six finish earlier this year, only two members of the team which saw action in west London - Jayden Bogle and captain Billy Sharp - are unavailable to face the visitors from the capital again.

Morgan Gibbs-White and Iliman Ndiaye, whose superb solo effort proved enough to settle a hard-fought contest, are set to spearhead United’s attack in Sharp’s absence. Although the striker’s torn calf muscle means Heckingbottom won’t be able to simply dust down the game plan he devised before that fixture, the dynamic of the hosts’ work should essentially remain the same; particularly if Sander Berge, who appeared as a substitute in the capital, continues to excel in his new attacking midfield role. As Ndiaye’s driving run and clinical finish before Christmas demonstrated, Fulham can be vulnerable on the counter - one flaw in an otherwise impressive armoury which has already led Silva’s charges to promotion.

Of equal importance, from United’s perspective at least, is the fact that the three central defenders who kept Aleksandar Mitrovic quiet when the two clubs last met are ready to start. Now recovered from the ligament problem which had threatened to end his campaign, Chris Basham is likely to again partner John Egan and Jack Robinson at the back. Robinson in particular excelled as Mitrovic, who has netted 46 times in his last 51 appearances, spent long periods of that evening on the periphery of the contest.

Paul Heckingbottom is preparing Sheffield United to face Fulham on Saturday: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Sheffield United's attacking midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White (centre) with Billy Sharp (left): Alistair Langham / Sportimage
Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham lifts the Sky Bet Championship Trophy aloft: Clive Rose/Getty Images