Sheffield United started the season as one of the teams many expected to right up there in terms of challenging for promotion. But, as usual, people were making cases for the three relegated teams to be the ones battling for the automatic places. However, after five games played, the Blades lead the way.
There were concerns ahead of the new season about the lack of business done on the transfer front into Sheffield United, with manager Paul Heckingbottom stressing how much he needed fresh faces. But, the Blades have since seen Anel Ahmedhodzic, James McAtee, Tommy Doyle, Ciaran Clark, and Reda Khadra arrive, which has been a significant boost and one of the reasons why United sit top of the pile on ten points, and a point in front of those below them.
It's well known in English football that when you’re relegated from the Premier League and have access to parachute payments, you arguably have three seasons tops to make a return before you have to start changing the landscape at a club. And, after making it to the playoffs last season in their first season back in the second tier, losing to Nottingham Forest, who went on to achieve promotion, things are looking good in the second season for Heckingbottom and the Blades.
After replacing Slavisa Jokanovic in the dugout, Heckingbottom re-installed the 3-5-2 system that had worked so well in getting United to the Premier League under former manager Chris Wilder, knowing it’s a formation the players are comfortable with. And that was proven as the Blades made it as far as the playoff semi-finals last term. But, things didn’t get off to a great start this term, with a 1-0 reverse in the opening fixture of the campaign at Vicarage Road against a recently relegated Watford.
However, in typical United-style, they bounced back immediately with a 2-0 win against Millwall before recording a draw away at Middlesbrough, the club that Wilder now manages. But it’s arguably the two results that have followed that have been most impressive, with Bramall Lane witnessing a 2-1 win against Sunderland before a 3-0 victory against Blackburn, who had been the team to beat in the first three games.
Goals, at times, have been hard to come by for United, even though a lot of money has been spent on the likes of Oli McBurnie and Rhian Brewster. But, against Blackburn, it was Iliman Ndiaye who came to the fore, scoring twice after entering the fray as a second-half substitute.
Sander Berge also proved his worth once again, with an assist for Ndiaye’s first. There is still speculation the twenty-four-year-old midfielder, who has contributed two goals and an assist in five league outings so far this season, could leave. But, if he does, United are well stocked, with Oliver Norwood also on the scoresheet against Blackburn. And, you’d expect the Blades, who continue to sharpen as the games come, would also reinvest the money in their quest for a return back to the big time.