Sheffield United signing Sander Berge does more than simply improve their squad... it has the potential to be a genuinely defining moment in the Blades' history

“He's Norweigan, he plays for the Blades with John Egan..."

Monday, 3rd February 2020, 5:27 pm

Sander Berge had just begun to make his way towards Sheffield United's travelling supporters at Crystal Palace when the words to his new terrace song began to ring around Selhurst Park.

"We're playing in Europe next season.... it's Saaaander Berge."

Has any Blades signing been serenaded with his own anthem as quickly? Berge only signed for the Blades on Thursday, in a club-record £22m deal, and quickly the song, to the tune of Oasis' She's Electric, spread around social media like wildfire.

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United skipper Billy Sharp is one of its biggest fans, after it was devised by Blades Spencer Starkes and Tom Dolby. Sharp sent it to Eoin Doyle, United's social media guru, and the scenes at full-time on Saturday were the result.

Berge, who was replaced by John Lundstram - who, as a sidenote, was excellent - in the second half of United's 1-0 victory, was pushed to the forefront by his teammates as they applauded the travelling Blades. But then, as his song got going properly, he stayed in front of them, taking in every second.

Here was a 21-year-old, fresh in England, playing in the Premier League for the first time. But already, you got the sense that he felt like he was at home.

For every Blades fan not in the away end at Selhurst Park, the question will have undoubtedly been: "How did he do?" Well, Berge probably summed it up best afterwards when he admitted that he had worked as hard in the first 45 minutes at Palace as he had in 90 in the Belgian league with Genk. The pace and intensity of the Premier League will take some adjusting to and for the first few moments at Selhurst Park, he was seemed to be reduced to watching the ball fly repeatedly over his head - which is still some achievement, given he stands at 6ft 5in.

But there were many signs - a well-timed interception here and a quick, instinctive pass under pressure there - of his undoubted quality. United's official Twitter account took great delight in informing their followers that no player on the pitch made more tackles than Berge's five, from five attempts. He played Lundstram's role in a slightly different way, but was no less effective - and then the performance of Lundstram, the man he replaced in the starting line-up, highlighted the other, and often overlooked, bonus of his arrival.

Berge, without doubt, makes United better with his presence. But his signing will also raise the performance levels of his midfield rivals, with genuine competition in the United ranks.

Berge's arrival signals something stronger, though, and it is not overemphasising the point to see this as possibly a genuine defining moment in the club's long history. The Blades have been successful in their past and are often hailed by their own fans as the biggest club in European football, to never have played in Europe. It's difficult to quantify but what is surely beyond question is that this club has rarely before, if ever, possessed a player like Berge; an international-standard footballer, with Champions League experience, and his best years ahead of him, who was prised away from a club who wanted him to stay.

United have had some damned good players in their long and illustrious history. Officially the best of them all was Tony Currie, although he arrived as a relatively-unknown and unproven teenager and left as an England international.

Debutant Sander Berge of Sheffield United celebrates in front of the away section after the Blades' 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Players like Ian Rush and Paul McGrath are legends in football, but arrived at Bramall Lane at the opposite spectrum of their careers and with varying degrees of success. In the press room before Saturday's game at Palace, a group of journalists got their heads together and tried to come up with a bigger signing than Berge, by almost any measure. Despite their many collective years following United as either fans or journalists, or both, they could not.

The nearest example was Alex Sabella, the Argentinian that United settled for when Diego Maradona famously proved out of their price range. Sabella was largely successful, but United were still relegated at the end of his first season in Sheffield before he moved to Leeds. Under Wilder, and with Berge on board, United are aiming much, much higher.

“It has just started but the club is getting better and better," Berge said after finally dragging himself off the Selhurst Park pitch, and those fans singing his name disappeared into the South London night. "To win and go fifth in my first game is fantastic. But we cannot stop there. We must push forward. The song is all about playing in Europe next season. That is the ambition.”

Along with Norwood and Fleck, as the song they sang long into the evening continues, the Norweigan may or may not be the reason that United play in Europe next season. But either way, and as long as his promising career lasts, his Blades bow was a day young Berge will likely never forget.

Behind the scenes pictures as Sander Berge signs for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Sander Berge of Sheffield Utd: Paul Terry/Sportimage
Sheffield United’s manager Chris Wilder: Paul Terry/Sportimage