Meet the opposition: Sheffield United

15th January 2019
First team

As Swansea City get set to welcome Sheffield United to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday (5.30pm), we take a closer look at the men from Bramall Lane.

What’s their story?

The Blades were among the founding members of the Premier League but were relegated at the end of the second season following the revamp of the top-flight.

They returned for a solitary season under Neil Warnock in 2006-07, but fell into the Championship and then League One in the following seasons.

However, they have been revived under the stewardship of Chris Wilder, who guided them to the League One title in 2017, and had them in play-off contention upon their return to the second tier last term.

Sheffield United are one of only four clubs to have won all top four tiers in English football, joining Burnley, Preston and Wolves on an illustrious list.

They also have four FA Cup triumphs to their name in 1899, 1902, 1915, 1925.

How’s their form?

Impressive. Wilder's men are unbeaten in their last five league games, winning four of them. The Blades’ last league defeat came at the hands of West Brom in mid-December, although they were dumped out of the FA Cup by non-league Barnet earlier this month.

They have the joint-second best defensive record in the division having conceded just 28 goals in their 27 matches played - only trumped by Middlesbrough’s tally of 19.

At the other end of the field, they have been propelled up the table by the goalscoring talents of Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick, who have been in fine form. Indeed, Sharp is the division's joint-top marksman with 16 goals.

Who’s the boss?

Wilder is a former Sheffield United defender whose playing career saw him feature for 11 clubs, including time at Rotherham, Bradford and Notts County. He was appointed Blades boss in 2016.

Having started his managerial career at Alfreton, Wilder moved on to Halifax and nearly got the Shaymen back into the Football League.

He managed to complete that feat with his next club, Oxford United, before making the move to League Two Northampton Town in 2014.

He saved the Cobblers from relegation shortly after his appointment, and built on that positive start to eventually claim the League Two title with a joint-club record of 99 points in a season in 2016.

Wilder then returned to his hometown club - he was born in the Stocksbridge area of Sheffield - to secure promotion back to the Championship, picking up 100 points in the process and and going on to establish them as contenders for a return to the Premier League.

Who are the key men?

Young goalkeeper Dean Henderson is on loan from Manchester United and has been ever-present in the Sheffield United goal this season, keeping nine clean sheets in the process.

In front of him, fellow Englishman Jack O’Connell was linked with a Premier League move in the summer but has played every minute of league football for the Blades this season, while his centre-back partner John Egan has also been a consistent figure since joining from Brentford.

Scottish midfielder John Fleck has impressed for Wilder’s men, while Northern Irishman Oliver Norwood has been involved in seven goals for the Blades this season from the middle of the park

They have proved an extremely potent force in front of goal, with Sharp and McGoldrick scoring 26 goals between them. Indeed, the former is now the EFL's leading goalscorer this century with 220 to his name since his debut in 2004.

The last time Sheffield United scored in a league game without either Sharp or McGoldrick being on the scoresheet was against Brentford at the end of November.