Like a speedboat without a driver. That’s how one Nottingham Forest fan described Oliver Burke to us when Sheffield United landed the former RB Leipzig man in a deal involving Callum Robinson in 2020. Sadly, just 18 months on, and it seems even the speedboat bit was a tad generous when it came to Burke.
Chris Wilder opted to cash in on Robinson when West Brom put up a nice chunk of change and threw in Burke as a makeweight in the deal. At the time, Wilder was happy. He’d added much needed raw pace to the squad, while he’d also taken a punt on a player who hadn’t reached his potential as yet.
Burke had moved to Germany from Forest for around £13m. But he never kicked on, and spells with Celtic, Alaves, and then Albion failed to get the best from him either. As Wilder had done with the likes of Ravel Morrison, this was a risk worth taking for the then-Blades boss.
However, over the period of time Sheffield United used Oliver Burke, the writing was always on the wall.
One of the biggest issues Oliver Burke has at the moment is nobody can really see where he plays. Wilder tried to use him as a striker. At times, he pace running into the corners caused teams an issue. And let’s give him his credit here, Burke is blisteringly quick. But with that speed, there is little to no control.
At Alaves, Burke was used as wing-back. But most Sheffield United fans simply cannot see how that would even be considered in England. Quick as Burke is, he doesn’t beat men with ease, is not defensive minded, and seemed to – at times anyway – lack the required work-rate for such a position.
Wilder was probably right to put Burke up top. But against Premier League opposition who were simply too good, and now against deep-sitting Championship defences, the former Nottingham Forest man was of little use.
Lows Outweigh The Highs
For Oliver Burke himself, he’ll always have a winning goal at Old Trafford to his name. And fair play to him, he scored and will be etched in history on a famous night for Sheffield United Football Club.
But really, that’s where the highs end for Burke and United. The stats sheet reads 36 games, two goals, and one assist in red and white. Put simply, that’s just not going to cut it for most Championship teams, never mind United.
Often ridiculed by fans on social media for certain ‘fashion choices’ (not that we think it matters what Burke does in his personal life or online), but it’s safe to say the forward won’t be missed at Bramall Lane. In pure footballing terms, we were overstocked anyway in attack. And in fan opinion terms, it’s likely to be seen as big wage off the books with minimal impact on the squad.
All in all, it’s a win-win for the Blades. Of course, Burke might find his feet in Millwall and do well. After all, he is just 24 and has time to finally get cracking. But if he does that, then United either get back a player in form, or have a saleable asset.
But for the here and now, Oli Burke is one Sheffield United player who won’t be yearned for by many at S2. In a few months’ time, it would be no surprise to see Millwall fans wondering why their club bothered either.