What Sheffield United's retained and released list tells us about Slavisa Jokanovic's plans
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In the clearest sign yet that new manager Slavisa Jokanovic is planning to retain the 3-5-2 system his predecessor Chris Wilder employed to such good effect before last season’s relegation from the Premier League, Bryan was yesterday invited to open talks about extending his stay in South Yorkshire as United prepare for life under the Serb.
However Jagielka, who turns 39 in August, Lundstram and Moore, a veteran of the squad Wilder led to the League One title in 2017, are moving on ahead of Jokanovic’s arrival early next month.
The former Yugoslavia and Chelsea midfielder is understood to have discussed the futures of all four players with owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during a meeting in Geneva last week before being officially confirmed as Wilder’s successor.
Having made his top-flight debut as a replacement for the injured Jack O’Connell at West Bromwich Albion in November, United’s desire to keep Bryan suggests Jokanovic wants to maintain a stock of attack-minded centre-halves as he attempts to lift them back out of the Championship.
Although O’Connell was pictured performing an intensive boxercise workout on United’s social media channels earlier this week, Paul Heckingbottom, who took caretaker charge following Wilder’s departure in March, recently warned the Liverpudlian was still some way off returning to full-time training.
Alexander Blessin, who was linked with the United vacancy before Jokanovic’s appointment, told colleagues at Oostende that he was encouraged to adopt Wilder’s strategy - albeit with a few subtle tweaks - during exploratory talks with Prince Abdullah’s representatives. The subjects of tactics and strategy were also raised when Jokanovic was first approached, as the Saudi Arabian and his board of directors look to avoid an expensive and potentially disruptive overhaul of a squad constructed to reflect Wilder’s philosophy.
Jagielka, who turned professional with United after progressing through their youth system, made a total of 309 appearances for his boyhood club after rejoining them from Everton two seasons ago.
Lundstram’s relationship with both Wilder and the United supporters deteriorated when he ignored efforts to lure him back to the negotiating table having rejected what the 53-year-old described as a “very attractive” salary package.
Moore has not featured for United since June last year, when he deputised for the on-loan Dean Henderson during a 3-0 defeat at Manchester United. Rodwell has barely featured at all, having been plagued by fitness issues towards the end of his stay.
Youngsters Ashton Hall and Tommy Williams have also been told their contracts with United are not being renewed.
"The club wishes all the departing players best wishes for their future endeavours and would like to thank them for their servivces to Sheffield United ” a statement, accompanying the retained and released list, read.
Ethan Ampadu, who spent last term at United on loan from Chelsea, has returned to Stamford Bridge.