The five Sheffield United stars who pose a huge threat to Brighton and Hove Albion
Ahead of Brighton’s Premier League visit to Bramall Lane, Jacob Panons takes a look at Sheffield United's big five.
Chris Wilder's men have impressed greatly since their return to the Premier League. They are sixth in the table with 12 matches remaining and a Champions League spot is starting to look like a realistic target.
Here are five players who have played key roles so far this campaign.
Dean Henderson: The goalkeeper’s form this season has led to many fans pleading with Gareth Southgate to start the 22-year-old in goal ahead of Jordan Pickford. Henderson, who is on loan from Manchester United, has nine clean sheets this season. He has however been well-protected by a reliable defence.
With that being said, whenever Henderson is needed he can pull off top-class saves to keep his side in the game. A strength that takes Henderson to the next level is his tendency to stand tall and to not go to ground too quickly which has seen him win several one-on-one duels with attackers.
He has the ability to use his length well and to get down quickly. One criticism is that Henderson has failed to push the ball out of the danger areas at times following a save.
This was seen at the Amex when Martin Montoya jumped onto the goalkeeper’s save before setting up Neal Maupay only for his goal to be ruled out for offside. Chris Wilder may be thrilled with Henderson’s form but his excellence between the sticks provides a dilemma for Manchester United who will have to make a decision on the goalkeeper’s future come the end of the season.
Fun fact: Henderson possesses two world records. One for ‘Fastest time to dress as a goalkeeper', He did this in 49.51 seconds, and 'Most football headed passes in one minute (team of two)', recorded 91 passes with Jake Clarke-Salter.
Oli McBurnie: When he is not in the away end starting chants, the striker is terrorising Premier League defenders. McBurnie scored against Brighton during the two sides’ last encounter and the Scotland international will be hoping to punish his former manager again on Saturday.
While at Swansea, Graham Potter helped McBurnie tap into scintillating form which saw the striker net 24 goals in 47 games. Although McBurnie has not been as prolific in the Premier League with his new side, scoring just four goals, he still poses a threat for the Seagulls. Along with his aerial threat, the striker is also good with his feet while his finishing can also punish opponents.
Wilder has put a lot of faith in the striker as he has featured in 24 league games. This shows McBurnie’s importance to Wilder’s side with the striker providing so much more to the team than just a goalscorer as he holds up the ball and helps Sheffield United tick. The Scotsman is not guaranteed a start on Saturday with Billy Sharp, Lys Mousset, and David McGoldrick.
John Lundstram: A man who needs little introduction to fantasy football fanatics. The midfielder has been one of Sheffield United’s top performers since their return to the Premier League scoring four goals and recording two assists.
Lundstram is most dangerous in the final third when he drifts in behind the run of play as it creates space for him to peel off of his man and to clean up the scraps from poor clearances.
The central midfielder also helps Wilder’s side operate from the heart of the pitch as he links his team alongside Oliver Norwood and John Fleck. Going into Saturday’s game the Everton youth product will be on Brighton’s radar.
Although Lundstram did not create too much of a headache for Brighton back in December there is every chance that he could be at the heart of Albion’s troubles this weekend if he features.
Since the arrival of Sander Berge from Genk, Lundstram has had to come to terms with making cameos from the bench although the Norwegian holding midfielder does not possess the same goal-scoring threat.
John Fleck: As part of Sheffield United’s central midfield trio, Fleck has arguably had a better season than teammate Lundstram. The Scotsman has scored five goals this season, surpassing his previous record of four.
This is perhaps the goal-scoring future many saw for the midfielder after he was tipped as the ‘next Wayne Rooney’ following his Rangers debut at 16-years-old. Along with his ability to find the back of the net this season, Fleck has also been creating chances for his teammates.
Fleck missed his side’s match at the Amex in December due to suspension so Potter will have to consider a new threat. Credit must be given to the midfielder as he has adapted from playing in League One with the Blades to not just surviving but thriving in the top division.
As mentioned previously Sheffield United operate with three in the middle of the park with no number-10 which allows Fleck to float forward when needed while not leaving the Blades exposed on the break.
David McGoldrick: Despite not scoring a goal for the Blades since April 2019, McGoldrick is a fan-favourite at Bramall Lane and a key performer for the club. McGoldrick is vital for Sheffield United’s attacking threat and can split open the opposition’s defence with a pass if given the opportunity.
Despite this, the striker has seen his role change since promotion to the top division. Last season McGoldrick scored 15 league goals and won the club’s ‘Player of the Season’ award whereas in the Premier League the Irishman has allowed his teammates to make the headlines as he pulls the strings.
Some Sheffield United fans however, are beginning to question if McGoldrick is the best option up front ahead of McBurnie, Billy Sharp, and Lys Mousset but they still recognise his worth.