Sheffield United wonderkid Iliman Ndiaye admits he had a point to prove on return at Fulham

Iliman Ndiaye, the hero of Sheffield United’s impressive victory at Fulham earlier this week, admits he was determined to prove a point to Paul Heckingbottom on his return to the Blades side – even if the young Frenchman accepted why he was left out during the early stages of the new manager’s reign.

Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 12:36 pm

Heckingbottom was the man who handed Ndiaye his senior debut for the Blades, thrusting him into Premier League action away at Leicester City just hours after taking interim charge from Chris Wilder last season.

And after the former Barnsley and Leeds chief was named United’s new permanent manager following the sacking of Slavisa Jokanović last month, many expected Ndiaye to be one of the biggest beneficiaries.

But the youngster was omitted from Heckingbottom’s first two line-ups and returned to the U23s to get some match practice, although it’s understood that his absence was tactical and tailored to the opposition United faced rather than any suggestion Ndiaye had been dropped.

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With Oli McBurnie and David McGoldrick absent with Covid-19 related issues, Ndiaye returned to the Blades side at Craven Cottage – and certainly took his chance, with a wonderful long run and composed finish proving the winner.

Victory at Fulham sent the Blades to within three points of the play-offs, but they will probably lose some ground on Boxing Day after their trip to Preston North End was postponed because of positive Covid-19 cases in the home side’s camp.

“It feels very good, obviously,” Ndiaye said modestly after his goal and man-of-the-match display.

Sheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye scores his side's winner at Fulham: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

“I came back into the squad and I just wanted to come back here and show what I can do. It’s normal to get left out, it’s part of football.

“It was his [Heckingbottom’s] decision and he has other players that he can play as well. I’m just looking to show him why I shouldn’t have been left out and go from there.”

A young man of immense talent, it was seen as a significant step forward for United when Ndiaye was tied down to a long-term contract earlier this season.

“It feels like a new beginning,” the impressive 21-year-old admitted. “We’ve just got to keep it going from here.”