Sheffield United didn’t come close to testing Crystal Palace and must invest to stand a chance of staying up… Even Blades boss admits: We’ve lost our identity
- Paul Heckingbottom admitted Sheffield United were off the pace on Saturday
- He has insisted the club will spend in the transfer market to improve their squad
- Click here to watch Mail Sport’s brand new show ‘It’s All Kicking Off’ in full
The last time Sheffield United were in the Premier League, they waited until January for a win. The probability of them waiting that long for three points this season is low but on this display alone, there is little doubt that if Paul Heckingbottom wasn’t aware of the magnitude of the task at hand, he will be now.
That it only finished 1-0 was due to Palace’s wastefulness, with two goals ruled out for offside. The 24 shots Roy Hodgson’s side had were the joint-most United had faced in a Premier League game.
The home side never really came close to testing Sam Johnstone either and it was easy to see why. Of their top five players for chances created last season, four have departed with Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge sold and Tommy Doyle and James McAtee leaving after loan spells.
With Heckingbottom insisting that there will be a few more additions this month, to go with the arrival of Gustavo Hamer from Coventry, who scored 11 goals and made 10 assists last term, it is unlikely that the same starting 11 will feature again for the Blades.
The loudest Bramall Lane was all afternoon came before kick-off as the crowd welcomed Hamer.
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom has admitted his team’s identity ‘has gone’
He insisted the club will spend in the transfer window to improve their squad this summer
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‘We’ve sold players and now we’ve got a bit of money, so we’ll spend it,’ the Sheffield United manager insisted. ‘The best way to put it is that we only had six lads starting who played the game that got us promoted. We’ve lost all the goals and assists and how we look to win the ball back at the top end of the pitch, so our identity as a team has gone.
‘All I’m bothered about is replacing that or we’ll have to change the way we play a bit,’ he added.
United didn’t lack in fight but lacked in quality, with injuries meaning that Heckingbottom had to start two 20-year-old forwards in Will Osula, who spent last season on loan at Derby in League One, and summer signing Benie Traore.
Crystal Palace, meanwhile, impressed despite the absence of now-departed forward Wilfried Zaha
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Sheffield United (3-5-2): Foderingham 6; Ahmedhodzic 6, Egan 6, Robinson 6 (Ben Slimane 80min); Baldock 6.5, Basham 6 (Souza 80), Norwood 6, Osborn 6 (Brooks 87), Lowe 6 (Larouci 80); Traore 5 (Hackford 87), Osula 5.
Booked: Osula, Ahmedhodzic, Ben Slimane.
Manager: Paul Heckingbottom 6.
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Johnstone 6; Ward 6.5, Guehi 6.5, (Tomkins 90), Andersen 6.5, Mitchell 6.5; Lerma 8, Doucoure 7; Ayew 7, Eze 7, Schlupp 6; Edouard 7.
Scorer: Edouard 49.
Manager: Roy Hodgson 7.
Referee: John Brooks 7.
Palace, who began a season for the first time since 2014 without Wilfried Zaha, still had Odsonne Edouard, Ebere Eze and Jordan Ayew, as well as Jefferson Lerma who was fantastic on debut.
‘It is a big difference in terms of level,’ said Heckingbottom. ‘You could see that certainly at the top end of the pitch, their quality was there. They had the cutting edge even when we defended it pretty well. We had youth at the top end and lacked that cutting edge. That’s just where we are right now.’
As the players left the pitch, the stadium announcer said ‘Next up at Bramall Lane, Manchester City.’
Before that, a trip to Nottingham Forest on Friday night and judging by the opening 90 minutes of their campaign, Heckingbottom and Co will be desperate to get something at the City Ground to kickstart their season, before the champions come to town.
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