Football Features

How Sheffield United could line up if their best ex-players returned

By Steve Jennings

Published: 17:00, 15 November 2019

With 12 games gone in the 2019/20 Premier League season, Sheffield United are flying high.

The Blades are enjoying their first Premier League campaign since 2006/07, currently sitting fifth in the table. It is a continuation of the incredible job Chris Wilder has done since taking over at his boyhood club in 2016.

The award is the culmination of the incredible job Wilder has done since taking over at his boyhood club in 2016. Sheffield United have achieved two promotions in three years under the former Oxford and Northampton coach.

On top of the two promotions achieved in three years, Wilder has overseen positive results against some of England’s biggest clubs this season. The Blades have drawn with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur while only losing narrowly to Liverpool in a game they deserved to take something away from.

But perhaps the biggest result for Sheffield United so far this season was their 1-0 home win over Arsenal, with whom they are level on points.

This comes despite the topsy-turvy decade the Blades have endured, dropping as low as League One while seeing a number of hugely talented players pass through the club – such as current Manchester United centre-back Harry Maguire.

Despite their good standing, there must be many Sheffield United fans who wish they had managed to keep hold of Maguire along with the various stars they have had to let go.

So we’ve proposed how the Yorkshire side could be even better if all of their former stars suddenly returned this season.

Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson

Current club: Sheffield Utd (on loan from Man Utd)
Sheffield Utd apps: 58

We start with one of the current stars. Dean Henderson played a major role in Sheffield United’s promotion to the Premier League, winning the Championship Golden Glove with 21 clean sheets.

And he has carried that form into the new campaign, once again on loan from Manchester United, conceding just nine goals in 12 games. Henderson has also recorded five clean sheets, with no Premier League goalkeeper managing more.

Centre-back: Gary Cahill

Current club: Crystal Palace
Sheffield Utd apps: 16

Many will be unaware two-time Premier League winner Gary Cahill spent a short spell on loan at Sheffield United in the 2007/08 Championship season. The centre-back joined the Blades on a three-month deal from Aston Villa in the first half of the campaign.

He then left Villa permanently for Bolton Wanderers in the January 2008 transfer window. At Bolton, he would go on to become one of England’s most highly-rated defenders, and his form eventually earned him a big-money move to Chelsea. He is now at Crystal Palace having left the Blues in the summer and is a key member of Roy Hodgson’s team.

Centre-back: John Egan

Current club: Sheffield Utd
Sheffield Utd apps: 58

Another member of the 2019/20 squad, John Egan has been a rock at the back for Wilder’s stingy defence having been so key for their promotion push last season.

Since joining Sheffield United from Brentford in 2018, Egan has missed just two league games and is ever-present in the Premier League this season. He leads the way at the club for clearances, interceptions and blocks and is usually the holding man while his centre-back partners push forward.

Centre-back: Harry Maguire

Current club: Manchester United
Sheffield Utd apps: 166

Harry Maguire has enjoyed an astonishing rise in stature since signing for Leicester in the summer of 2017, becoming a favourite among England fans at last summer’s World Cup and earning a move to Manchester United.

The Sheffield-born centre-back rose through the ranks at his boyhood club and was eventually tempted away by the proposal of Premier League football at Hull City. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, but Sheffield United fans – and perhaps Maguire himself – will be dreaming of a reunion later in his career.

Right wing-back: Kyle Walker

Current club: Manchester City
Sheffield Utd apps: 35

Now a two-time Premier League winner with Manchester City thanks to a string of scintillating displays on the right flank, Kyle Walker was once a young centre-back trying to break into the Sheffield United team.

His efforts saw Tottenham swoop and loan him back to Bramall Lane, where he played 26 times in the 2009/10 Championship campaign. Further loans with QPR and Aston Villa followed before he became a Spurs regular, and the rest is history. Like Maguire, Walker still attends his former club’s games when possible.

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Central midfield: Ollie Norwood

Current club: Sheffield Utd
Sheffield Utd apps: 57

It’s safe to say Ollie Norwood has found it difficult to call a place home in his career. Since his days in the Manchester United academy, the 28-year-old has had eight different clubs, including three different teams in the last three seasons.

Remarkably, though, Norwood appears to be the secret ingredient when it comes to promotion to the Championship. Over the last three years, he has gone up with Brighton, Fulham and now Sheffield United, who he joined permanently in January after a promising loan spell. After being named in the Championship Team of the Year last season, Norwood has continued to be key for Sheffield United in the Premier League both defensively and in attack.

Central midfield: David Brooks

Current club: Bournemouth
Sheffield Utd apps: 37

David Brooks has been cited as one of the Premier League’s signings of the season by fans and pundits alike. The Wales international has been excellent for Bournemouth since arriving on the south coast from Sheffield United last summer.

Brooks quickly became a regular at Bramall Lane in the 2017/18 season, making 33 appearances and scoring three goals from central midfield in the Championship. He bettered that tally in his debut top-flight campaign, scoring seven goals in 30 matches for the Cherries. At just 22, Brooks has a bright future ahead of him, though his progress is currently being halted by an ankle injury.

Left wing-back: Enda Stevens

Current club: Sheffield Utd
Sheffield Utd apps: 106

Another of the current crop, Enda Stevens is a crucial cog in Wilder’s system, which makes use of wing-backs to spread the opposition across the pitch and to make gaps for Sheffield United to exploit. Stevens has scored created 12 chances from the left flank in the Premier League this season, recording two assists.

Forward: Che Adams

Current club: Southampton
Sheffield Utd apps: 55

Che Adams was one of Sheffield United’s shining lights in League One, but the team’s failure to achieve promotion to the Championship in 2015/16 saw them lose him to Birmingham City in the summer of 2016.

Since then, the 23-year-old has gradually become one of the second division’s most lethal strikers, scoring 22 goals last season, earning him a move to the Premier League with Southampton.

Forward: Lys Mousset

Current club: Sheffield Utd
Sheffield Utd apps: 11

A summer arrival from Bournemouth, Lys Mousset has kicked Sheffield United hero Billy Sharp to the sidelines, quickly showing how good he can be for the Blades.

Scoring three goals and recording three assists in Premier League appearances so far this season, Mousset has been directly involved in more goals than any other Sheffield United player.

And at just 23 years of age, he can be a key player for the Blades for some time.

Forward: Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Current club: Everton
Sheffield Utd apps: 12

Dominic Calvert-Lewin didn’t score a single goal in his 12 appearances for Sheffield United, but his energetic displays for someone so young tempted Everton to take him to Merseyside in the summer of 2016.

After putting in a number of mature performances for Everton last season, including leading the line brilliantly in a 4-0 mauling of Manchester United, Calvert-Lewin has finally found goals. The 22-year-old has scored three goals in 10 Premier League games for the Toffees who put their trust in the young Englishman, deciding against signing a new striker in the summer.