2021 has been a tough old year for Sheffield United fans. Relegation from the Premier League, the departure of Chris Wilder, and the failed appointment of Slavisa Jokanovic, all moments of note.
At the moment, United are a club in a period of rebuild. However, with Paul Heckingbottom now in charge and not Jokanovic, there is a feeling that things are on the up. Four wins on the spin – including a stunning 1-0 win at Fulham this week – have left Blades fans feeling much better.
Despite the Boxing Day clash at Preston being cancelled, there is a feeling of momentum at the club. Heckingbottom deserves credit. Not only did he steady the ship when Wilder left. But he’s now turned things around following what was, on the whole, a dismal period under Jokanovic.
2022, then, promises to be encouraging for United fans. A playoff push is a reality, while the automatic places are not completely out of the question.
Thinking about 2021, while many lost their form, some Sheffield United players continued to do well. But who is the best to wear red and white in the last 12 months? Well, we’ve narrowed it down to our three best Sheffield United players of 2021 here.
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It’s impossible not to include the club captain when looking at the best players of 2021. Of course, it stretches over two seasons. But even when United were going down from the PL, it was Sharp who was doing his best to deliver. He scored winning goals against both Newcastle and West Brom to at least give some hope to United fans.
Sharp missed the back end of the Premier League season. However, it is in this campaign where the experienced striker has really shone. He battled his way back into contention to force Jokanovic to pick him. Following on, he’s been key in Heckingbottom’s excellent start as well.
Goals against Bristol City and Cardiff have helped United to three wins from three under the new boss. For Sharp, it’s seven goals and six assists already this season. Quite remarkable, really, for a player who was discounted by so many – including me – at the start of the campaign.
While he might not have been at his very very best, there is no denying John Egan has remained a quality operator in what has been a disjointed back line for 12 months.
With Chris Basham and Ben Davies now alongside him back in a back three, Egan is looking back to his immense best at the heart of the defence. It’s worth noting Egan wasn’t quite himself in the back four under Jokanovic. However, no player looked comfortable under the Serbian.
Egan was recently touted by Ireland manager Stephen Kenny as being good enough for the Champions League. He’s certainly not far off, and he’ll be a player United might have to fend bids off for in January. 2021 has been a good year overall for Egan. We all hope 2022 will get even better for the Irishman.
It might seem a bit much, but Morgan Gibbs-White has been truly outstanding since he signed on loan in the summer.
The Wolves loanee has been exceptional. He’s given United fans that edge of your seat player that doesn’t come along too often. His goal at Cardiff was just one demonstration at the quality he brings. Along with Iliman Ndiaye, Gibbs-White is going to be key for the Blades’ promotion hopes.
The last time United had a loanee who got the fans so invested was Dean Henderson. And we all know how well that went for both club and player. In Gibbs-White, the Blades have one of the very best players in the Championship on their hands.
January is key for Gibbs-White and United. If Wolves allow us to keep him as planned, then the top six – and maybe beyond – is definitely on. In fact, there’s an argument to say he’s been United’s best player in 2021 overall.