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9 aerial duels won: Oli McBurnie shows his value to Jokanovic with Southampton display

Last night’s 2-2 draw for Sheffield United against Premier League Southampton marked another upturn in an increasingly progressive season for the Blades.

After a slow start under Slavisa Jokanovic, things have started to turn around. Two wins from three last week, coupled with a strong showing last night in the midst of eleven changes, has left Unitedites feeling much better about the season ahead.

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So far, it’s been the addition to the starting XI of Iliman Ndiaye and Morgan Gibbs-White which has galvanised United. Those two, along with the impressive form of the evergreen Billy Sharp, have kick-started the Blades’ campaign.

But, as we all know, squad depth is important over a season. And that’s why last night’s showing from some of those on the fringes at Bramall Lane was a boost for Jokanovic. In particular, the display from £20m striker, Oli McBurnie, was especially pleasing.

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McBurnie shines for Sheffield United

When United were all but down last season, we wrote on this site how keeping McBurnie would be vital for the club. And while the goals have hardly flowed, the evidence last night was that the Scotland striker can play a big part.

As well as getting in the goalscoring act and then missing a penalty in the shootout, McBurnie’s overall performance was excellent. He led the line like an ‘Old-School Number 9’ at times. His work-rate, willingness to compete, and link up play, all helped United.

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Per Whoscored, McBurnie won an impressive 9 aerial duels. He won two from his three tackles, and defensively, completed three clearances. Going into the next few weeks, that contribution in the defensive third could be vital.

McBurnie also played a key role in the opening United goal. It was he and Rhian Brewster who combined well with Jayden Bogle before Enda Stevens fired home.

Of course, with Billy Sharp in such fine form, McBurnie may have to continue to be patient. But his time will come. And over the course of the season, the big striker can – and will – score goals for this Sheffield United side.

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