On the surface of things and at the time of their respective announcements, Chris Wilder’s dealings in the transfer market looked to be shrewd moves.
Aaron Ramsdale came in to replace Dean Henderson early on. A big fee but one that, at the time at least, seemed sensible enough given his age and the need we had.
In came Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe in a double deal. Again, around £10m for a pair of players expected to push both George Baldock and Enda Stevens in the wing-back positions. (We’ve hardly seen either, with Lowe only in because O’Connell is missing)
Ethan Ampadu’s signing from Chelsea was a smart one given his talent and versatility, while Wes Foderingham came in to bolster the goalkeeping ranks further.
Oliver Burke split opinion when signed as part of the Callum Robinson deal, while Rhian Brewster’s club-record deal was the bit of excitement and big-spending a number of United fans craved.
Of course, the jury is still out on most of those signings. Not their faults by any means and they do have time on their side to impress and make their mark at Bramall Lane.
But for all Wilder’s business and increased squad depth, there’s an argument that the first XI is actually no stronger than last season, while we’ve also failed to address a key area where most Blades would agree we lack quality.
Wilder couldn’t ever have predicted he’d have a bit of a nightmare with injuries. John Fleck hasn’t been fit all season really, while losing Jack O’Connell is a massive blow.
But what the Blades boss would have known was that, at times, we lacked a bit of creative spark from central areas last season. He would also have had an inkling into how John Lundstram might play out his situation.
Now, Lundstram has made things difficult for himself and the club at the moment. Wilder will deal with that accordingly and we obviously trust his judgement.
But what happened to those players we were linked with? John Swift never came near to signing. Glen Kamara remains a star for Rangers and we never did use that second Premier League loan.
It just seems a bit strange and now, questionable. Confidence is clearly lacking but teams have nullified us in wide areas too. With Fleck missing, the drive and bit of quality in the final third is missing from midfield.
Wilder has also opted with Oli McBurnie and Rhian Brewster lately, meaning we have missed David McGoldrick’s roaming and ability to find space. The Blades boss has also stuck to his guns, insisting the current system is fine.
This is all fair enough from the United gaffer and in way is this a piece to simply stick the knife in when things aren’t going well.
But it’s right that we can question things, too. Things aren’t working at the moment. We lack midfield options and given everyone expected Sander Berge to replace Ollie Norwood, we are now almost relying on the big Norwegian to be our creative force as well.
United spent over £50m in the summer. The signings will, probably, end up being good players for the Blades.
But in the immediate, we simply don’t seem to have addressed something that most armchair fans would point out was lacking from the squad and first XI.
Wilder will turn it around, I’ve no doubt. However, we must sign a midfielder in January who can create, keep his cool, and play the right pass. Otherwise, spending money on Brewster might well end up being a bit pointless.