Manchester City make the short trip to South Yorkshire to take on Sheffield United in the third game of the season.
The Blades won promotion last year, finishing second behind Vincent Kompany’s Burnley but are yet to record a win on their return to the top flight. The blues will be well rested following their win over Newcastle last weekend and, with new signing Jeremy Doku in the ranks, it should be quite an interesting game.
So, let’s take a look at The Blades, who they have signed and the threat they pose to the blues.
Just two games in and United are yet to get going. They lost both their opening fixtures, 2-1 at Nottingham Forest and 1-0 at home to Crystal Palace. That’s typical form for a newly promoted side, but the last thing they’d want to do is face the treble winners as they search for their first points of the season, however, there is an omen for this fixture.
In 1990, the newly promoted Blades welcomed City to Bramhall Lane having lost their opening home fixtures and grabbed a 1-1 draw. City were guilty of missing some glorious chances that day but only had David White’s second half goal to show for their efforts (United didn’t win a league game that season until 22nd December).
United had mixed results in pre-season, winning 2-0 at Chesterfield, before recorded a goalless draw with Portuguese side Estoril. Defeats at Rotherham (0-1) and Girona (0-2) were followed with a 3-1 win at Derby. A heavy defeat by Stuttgart (0-3) compounded their preparations for their Premier League return.
United have been busy in the transfer market, spending around £36m so far. Their biggest transfer was spending around £14m on Coventry midfielder Gustavo Hamer. Another midfielder, Vini Souza, has arrived from Lommel for £10m and striker Benie Traore has arrived from Swedish side Hacken.
However, they have allowed strikers Billy Sharp and Iliman Ndlaye to leave and, until Traore last season’s top scorer Oli McBurnie can find their Premier League shooting boots, you have to wonder where the goals will come from for United.
Hamer is the only Blade to score so far this season. His second-half goal brought United level on the opening day of the season at Nottingham Forest and that’s the only one they’ve got so far. That was Hamer’s only shot on goal and, since he didn’t feature against Palace, has a 100% shot accuracy and 100% goal conversion rate!
Oli McBurnie was last season’s top scorer but, two games in, the Scottish striker is still to find the back of the net.
Just two games in, no Blade has provided any assists and without Tommy Doyle and James McAtee running the show (both have returned to City), it may be a tough challenge for the United midfield this season.
Paul Heckinbottom is the man in charge at Bramhall Lane. The former defender spent most of his playing career in Yorkshire and spent two seasons at United city rivals, Sheffield Wednesday. Heckinbottom took charge of the Blades in March 2021 and his first match in charge ended with a 5-0 defeat at Leicester, and the side were eventually relegated from the Premier League.
Heckinbottom was replaced by Slavisa Jokanovic for the 21/22 season, but returned to the role on a permanent basis when Jokanovic was sacked in November 21.
As permanent manager, Heckinbottom has overseen 85 matches, winning 48 and losing 22, giving him a win ratio of 56%.
Last Time In Sheffield
Our last visit to Bramhall Lane ended with a 1-0 City victory thanks to a 28th minute goal by Kyle Walker. That result was United’s 6th defeat in seven Premier League matches and they would lose nine of their next ten league games before finally recorded their first win on 12th January – 1-0 at home to Newcastle.
The Blades Link
Several players have proudly worn the blues of City and red and white of the Blades. Some notable former players of both are:
Keith Curle, who spent five years at City before moving to United via Wolves in 2000. Simon Tracey arrived at Maine Road on loan from United in 1994 and made three appearances for the blues. Defender Carl Bradshaw made played five times for the blues before moving to South Yorkshire in 1989 and Paul Beesley spent five years at Bramhall Lane before moving to Maine Road via Leeds United in 1997.
City’s current right-back Kyle Walker had two spells at United and a big mention has to go to the one and only Brian Gayle. Why the big mention? Well, Gayle is a legend in the eyes of many City fans.
The defender spent two seasons at City, helping the blues win promotion in 1989 before moving to Ipswich in 1990. Gayle signed for the Blades in 1991 and played a pivotal role in stopping Manchester United winning the league title.
With the Blades drawing 2-2 with Leeds, Gayle scored with a well-placed header over his own keeper to give Leeds a 3-2 win which, coupled with United’s defeat at Liverpool, crowned Leeds as champions and delayed the unthinkable for another season.
Once a blue…