Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 August 2019

2019/20 Premier League preview - Sheffield United: Chris Wilder's men out to defy expectations by avoiding relegation

Richard Jolly runs the rule over Sheffield United ahead of the new season, including key player, new signing to watch and predicted league finish

Over the past three seasons, only Pep Guardiola has taken more points than Chris Wilder as Sheffield United have gone from League One to the top flight.

A surprise promotion was a deserved one: United ended with the best defence, best home form and, with a solitary defeat in their last 18 games, as they prospered under pressure.

If Wilder’s interpretation of 3-5-2 is unique, United altered their unique strategy of only signing British and Irish players to make French striker Lys Mousset one of a series of club-record buys.

He, Ben Osborn, Luke Freeman, Callum Robinson and the excellent returning goalkeeper Dean Henderson are not big-name additions but favourites for relegation may savour a status as outsiders.

Key player: Ravel Morrison

United were linked with Franck Ribery. Instead, they made another left-field signing of a hugely talented player. Rio Ferdinand called Morrison the most talented young player he had seen and he may represent a case of squandered potential but he is still only 26. Wilder is hoping he can unlock that potential.

Signing to watch: Phil Jagielka

Back at Bramall Lane after 12 years at Everton, a man who turns 37 next month will be among the division’s oldest players. Jagielka offers vast experience, but it will be instructive how he adapts to a very different role among Wilder’s three centre-backs, especially after a bit-part role last season.

Talking point: Adapting to the Premier League

Normally the question for a promoted team is how Championship players will adapt to the Premier League. At Bramall Lane, many were League One footballers in 2016/17 – Billy Sharp, Mark Duffy, John Fleck, Kieron Freeman, Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell – while Enda Stevens was in League Two.

They stepped up to the second tier superbly, with several among the division’s outstanding players last season, but the gap to the highest level is bigger still. The skipper Sharp has the most league goals in the 21st century – 227 – but none have come in the top flight. Hopefully that will change.

Prediction: 20th

Updated: August 2, 2019 03:32 PM

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