When Sander Berge arrived at Sheffield United in January, few players – especially relative unknowns – had been greeted with such open arms by Blades fans.
Scenes at Crystal Palace following his debut were akin to those you might see at a pop or rock concert. Quite apt, really, given the rendition of Oasis’s ‘She’s Electric’ that was belting out around Selhurst Park.
Berge loved it. Humble in personality, but lapping it up thanks to a gentle nudge from Chris Wilder following another memorable away win for the Blades last season.
That day, we got the slightest glimpse of what the big Norwegian could bring to the table. Nothing spectacular, but nonchalant flicks with the outside of the foot and seamlessly holding opponents off, both promising aspects of Berge’s play that we’ve seen develop since.
But from day one, the conversation around the 22-year-old has been where his best position is. Wilder himself has proclaimed Berge will eventually fill a deeper role for United and the Blades boss has deployed him there on a number of occasions already this season.
However, while Berge is fine there (a role he plays perfectly fine for Norway), at this moment in time, we need him to be that marauding and gazelle-like midfielder we saw at times on Sunday.
Chris Wilder isn’t changing his system. The sooner we, as fans, accept it, the sooner we can all move on from the stressful weekly conversation of ‘he’s got to look to change the shape’. His 3-5-2 has worked wonders for four years, so, in fairness, why would the gaffer change it now?
Of course, injuries can dictate that, which is where the conversation has come from. Jack O’Connell’s absence is massive, while new of John Fleck being missing is another hammer blow for United.
But if Wilder is sticking with his plan, then Berge on the right of the midfield three is a must. Not just because it allows Ollie Norwood to take his place in the team, but also because Berge is damn good there.
More to come
We saw glimpses of Berge’s influence there post-lockdown. He ran Spurs ragged at Bramall Lane, while he also made a talent-ridden Chelsea midfield look bang average, too.
The big Norwegian is, without question, our most technically gifted player. He carries the ball like few can in our team, he brushes opponents aside with ease, and has a goal in him when he gets into positions.
That right-midfield role allows him to get into those positions. Berge’s marauding runs caused Fulham countless problems on Sunday. All that was missing was the end product from United (a phrase we all get fed up of saying).
With Fleck out, Berge needs to be our go-to man for goals, creativity, and spark from midfield. We paid £22m for him, and now is the time for him to step up to the plate even more than he has been anyway.
Yes, ‘heeee’s Norwegian’. Yes, he ‘plays for the Blades with John Egan’. But if we keep the shackles on Berge, there’ll be no chance for us ever to be ‘playing in Europe next season’.