Sheffield United came of age with a fine performance at Craven Cottage, as Paul Heckingbottom saw his team see off Fulham thanks to Iliman Ndiaye’s goal.
Ndiaye slid the ball in from around 22 yards to give United a well-deserved lead and Fulham, for all their possession, couldn’t find a way through. There was a late scare, as Aleksandar Mitrovic hit the bar late on. But United held firm, and even had a goal disallowed for Billy Sharp in the second period.
But on a night that will have pleased Paul Heckingbottom, what did we really learn about this Sheffield United side? Well, we’ve done our best to digest, with FIVE things to come out of tonight’s win at Craven Cottage.
Iliman Ndiaye Is The Real Deal
We’ve seen glimpses this season and his performance against Peterborough was outstanding, but since then, Ndiaye has gone a tad quiet. However, tonight he showed what he is all about.
His touches, his ability to draw defenders in, and of course, his brilliant goal, cemented Ndiaye as one of the most exciting talents to emerge from the Lane in recent times. Sheffield United fans will hope this is the start of things to come from Ndiaye.
John Egan Is Premier League Quality
Up against the best striker in the league in Mitrovic, the Irish defender was simply outstanding at the back.
He won header after header, bullied Mitrovic at times, and looked every bit the Premier League quality defender we all know he is. Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny recently said Egan can play in the Champions League. And on this showing, there’s no reason that can’t happen.
Heckingbottom Has Got This Team Back Onside
We can look back and dissect the Jokanovic era, but one obvious thing was this Sheffield United team was out of sorts in so many ways under the Serbian. But under Heckingbottom, things have gone back to basics in a way and it’s working.
The shape was back, the hard work was back, and the game-plan was abundantly clear. Hecky has spoken of his desire to just give clear instruction. And that was obvious tonight. The Blades boss, then, deserves huge credit.
It’s Going To Be A Squad Game
You never know what’s going to happen and Morgan Gibbs-White going off injured showed that. But, on the flip side, it showed United’s strength in depth.
Sander Berge came on for his first significant contribution in months and did well. This is good news for Heckingbottom, who will be buoyed by knowing the fringe players are going to play their part. As the festive period continues and into January we go, it’s crucial that the likes of Berge, Osborn, and more contribute.
Billy Sharp Has Still Got It
Closer to 40 than he is to 30, Billy Sharp has no right to be delivering the performances and energy levels he is doing. But somehow, the Blades skipper is doing.
His performance for Sheffield United at Fulham tonight was outstanding. Hard work, bullish attitude, and a pain in the backside for Fulham’s defenders, Sharp was everything you need from a striker at his level.