Sheffield United: Why Iliman Ndiaye could be the key man during this weekend's derby against Barnsley
Iliman Ndiaye has been told that ability, not age or experience, will influence Sheffield United’s team selections as Slavisa Jokanovic considers increasing the youngster’s responsibilities ahead of this weekend’s trip to Barnsley.
Although Tuesday’s appearance against Millwall was only his eighth in the first team, Jokanovic told The Star he does not believe Ndiaye or other up-and-coming talents such as Kacper Lopata should be given special treatment - suggesting the 21-year-old could be placed at the heart of the visitors’ game plan on Sunday.
“To be honest, I am not thinking about who is old or who is not so old,” the United manager said. “I use people if they are available and they give us options in the match.
“I am not bothered about age. I am bothered about players full stop and being successful. That is my principal target. My choices are based, always, on the best interests of the team.”
Although he burst onto the scene by scoring two goals and creating another on his full debut six weeks ago, Ndiaye has been cast in a supporting role to Gibbs-White since bursting onto the scene against Peterborough last month. On loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, Gibbs-White’s pace and technical prowess has been responsible for transforming United’s attacking play since the season’s first international break.
It has also provided Ndiaye with the breathing space to learn his trade at the coalface, easing the pressure on the Frenchman’s shoulders. But now, with Gibbs-White ineligible for selection following his red card in midweek, Ndiaye appears set to be presented with a chance to become United’s artistic director.
For one match only, maybe. But this weekend’s derby could still be a pivotal moment in his career, as United look to build some momentum following a chequered sequence of results. After filleting Darren Ferguson’s team 6-2, they have won three and lost three of their last seven league outings.
“Some young players start to become more important,” said Jokanovic. “But older ones, they are important too.”