United came through their biggest home test so far with flying colours, though anyone who just saw footage of the goals might believe that a lot of luck was involved.
I doubt that Billy Sharp has ever before scored two goals in a game from so great a combined distance (which must have been 50 yards), and surely he’s never scored two in a game with the opposing goalkeeper so far away from the route of the ball. Then Johnny Russell’s own goal was of Jeff King at Reading in 1984 standard, such was the accuracy and power of his low shot into the corner.
But United won fair and square, in the first half dominating a team containing several players with extensive Premier League experience and who cost a few million.
Why they couldn’t match the effort and skill of a newly promoted, inexpensively put together team until they upped their game in the second half is not our concern, but it will give the Blades the confidence that they can compete with and beat the better teams in the Championship, at least at home.
The international break comes at the right time for some of the squad, especially Ched Evans, George Baldock and Samir Carruthers, for whom the extra week gives them more time to work on their fitness.
It will not, however, help Leon Clarke, who has to sit out another week, or Caolan Lavery and Richard Stearman, who’ll both be out for a while with injuries. The same probably goes for goalkeeper Simon Moore.
Without Clarke, Lavery and Hanson we need Ched Evans to be fit and well, otherwise it’ll be a case of squeezing somebody in there, such as David Brooks, Mark Duffy or even, perhaps, Nathan Thomas who arrived from Hartlepool United earlier this summer.
It worked briefly early last season when Stefan Scougall supported Sharp, but it’s nowhere near ideal. That is unless Chris Wilder made a signing before the deadline.