Oli McBurnie put in another fine display last night as Sheffield United narrowly lost out to Man City at home.
The Scottish international striker was well up for the challenge of playing the champions. Along with his teammates, he put in an excellent performance full of grit and determination to push Pep Guardiola’s men extremely close.
An injury to David McGoldrick and fitness concerns over Lys Mousset has left the door open for McBurnie. Indeed, he’s started three of the last five games now, scoring the winner at home against West Ham last week.
After arriving in the summer for a club-record £20m, the expectation on McBurnie was high. But now, five months into his time at Bramall Lane, it appears the Blades are starting to see the best of the big forward.
Last night against City, McBurnie caused Nicolas Otamendi all sorts of problems. McBurnie’s height, strength, and aerial prowess were on full display as the Blades played a more direct game.
In fact, throughout the season, only three Premier League players have won more aerial duels than McBurnie. His 108 successes putting him behind only James Tarkowski, Sebastien Haller, and Joelinton.
When you see that this puts him above the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Harry Maguire, it really does show how dominant the Blades star can be.
According to the stats (Whoscored.com), McBurnie is winning more in the air than he is losing. At an average of 9.4 aerial duels per game, McBurnie is coming out on top in 4.9 of them.
Furthermore, he’s also contributed 25 defensive clearances. This is far and away the best out of any of United’s more advanced players and shows his ability to help out at both ends of the pitch.
More than just a target man
McBurnie has already proven to be a good finisher. He took his one big chance against West Ham to win the game. At Brighton, he did similar, capitalising on his only major opportunity to win three points for his team.
However, he’s also proving to be a fine player on the floor, too. His short passing stats (8.9 per game) have been creeping up, while he’s only been dispossessed an average of once per game. That is pretty impressive for a player who has to deal with defenders playing right up and on him throughout the game.
Against City last night, McBurnie gathered the ball in on numerous occasions before laying off to set attacks off.
While four goals for a £20m striker might not seem like much, the signs are there with McBurnie. He’s looked fitter, stronger, and more capable with each passing week.
And while Chris Wilder has a number of strikers to choose from, it’s pretty safe to assume that it’s now McBurnie plus one for the time being.
After looking like being the scapegoat among some United fans for so long, it now looks like Oli McBurnie is winning people round at Bramall Lane.