Ethan Ampadu was thrust into a central midfield role at Liverpool on Saturday night as Chris Wilder opted with the Chelsea loanee ahead of Ollie Norwood.
Norwood, a regular for United and instrumental in the journey Wilder so often talks about, has seen his game-time affected this season. Sander Berge replaced him for a few games earlier in the campaign, while Ampadu was given the job at Anfield at the weekend.
The Blades boss explained that he’d had to make a tough call over whether to start Norwood or the Chelsea loanee.
But he admitted after the game that he thought the Wales youngster was outstanding, words that suggest Wilder won’t be taking the Chelsea man out of the XI any time soon. (Ampadu will not be allowed to play at Stamford Bridge in two weeks’ time, however)
So, does that mean, then, that we might be seeing the gradual peetering out of Norwood from regular first XI duties? Or is this simply a bump in the road and a case of using the squad the best way we can?
Honestly, there’s probably a bit of both in there.
It’s hard to judge on just one performance but here are the positives from Ampadu on Saturday.
He was calm on the ball, assured in possession, and gave us that little bit of added height in front of the back four which can be crucial when defending in the Premier League. Crucially, too, he has that yard of pace that Norwood lacks, meaning he could cover the ground quicker.
Basically, Ampadu looked like a player who plays for a top four club. His movements, touch, and distribution, all those of a man who has played with players of the highest calibre.
For Norwood, he’ll have sat back and admired what his younger counterpart produced.
There’s still a place in this team for the 29-year-old. Nobody on this website is writing him off and, obviously, Ampadu will return to Chelsea next summer, meaning Norwood might be straight back in.
For the time being, the former Man United youngster will have to be patient. Wilder simply cannot drop Ampadu after that display.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a role to play for Norwood either. There’ll be games where we have more of the ball. This is where he excels in red and white, being chief distributor from the middle of the park.
Time will tell, of course. However, for now, as Blades fans, we should be delighted at having two quality players competing for that one position in the middle of the park.