Football Features

David McGoldrick told you so: Sheffield Utd clear way for Man Utd to take Chelsea’s top-four spot

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 20:07, 11 July 2020

Sheffield United produced another memorable Premier League performance as they ran out 3-0 winners against Chelsea at Bramall Lane this evening.

On their return to the big time Chris Wilder’s men have now sent all five London-based clubs in the top flight back down south with no points.

The Blues, who are the latest to suffer this ignominy, simply had no answer for the Blades’ disciplined rearguard, but it was their centre-forwards (and one in particular) who truly shone on this occasion.

It’s about time

With the season whittling down it started looking increasingly likely that David McGoldrick wouldn’t break his Premier League duck. Heading into today’s showdown the 32-year-old Irish marksman had played nearly 1,600 minutes in England’s top division while registering 42 shots, all without troubling the score sheet (although he had an effort against Tottenham disallowed).

His only (legal) goals for the Blades during this campaign had come in the FA Cup, most notably in their dramatic 2-1 loss to Arsenal last month. A favourite among supporters as well as with his fellow teammates, they nevertheless willed him on and the moment McGoldrick dreamt of came just after the quarter-hour when he was in the right place to convert following Kepa’s amazing save from his strike partner Oliver McBurnie.

Leading from the front

McBurnie wasn’t going to be left out and got in on the act 15 minutes later when he headed home a well-worked move. Enda Stevens’ pinpoint cross found the Scottish international who had a few Chelsea defenders in his vicinity. His bread and butter aside, he and McGoldrick couldn’t have illustrated the work ethic manager Chris Wilder demands more explicitly.

In a sense both were Sheffield United’s first line of defence. The pair, who played alongside each other for 62 minutes, matched up well against the Blues back-three and between them won 10 aerial duels with both sharing the load (five), as well as registering 80% of the Blades total shots on goal during their time together on the pitch.

Even with McBurnie off, Chelsea had no answer for a galvanised McGoldrick, who doubled his Premier League tally in the latter stages. A month ago, McGoldrick, who’s been with Sheffield United since joining from Ipswich Town in July 2018, penned a new deal before stressing that what mattered to him more was putting in a shift.

“When I was younger, Harry Redknapp told me not to worry about not scoring,” he said. “Worry if you’re not getting chances because if you’re not getting into position, then that is what really shows you’re not up to the Premier League. I have waited 16 years to be in the Premier League, I am sure it will come, but we are seventh and doing well, that’s all that matters.

“It’s special times. I know I’ll get the goal, for sure. Every young boy wants to play in the Premier League. I’ve had moves that didn’t happen, lost in the play-offs. Now I’m here. I am taking nothing for granted, I give it my all scoring or not scoring, it doesn’t affect me, it’s a pleasure for me to play here and a real honour.

“When you get to 30, and I was told I wasn’t getting a contract at Ipswich, my phone wasn’t ringing. I was looking at clubs lower down and then Sheffield United came in and it was perfect. It’s hard work first but the way we play in the final third suits me down to a tee.

“I’m not bothered about the goals, because if I’m fit I play most of the time and that shows the manager and the fans believe in me. What I like is, if you put a shift in, then people respect you. Two years ago, I didn’t know where my future was going. I started at 16, so to be playing in the Premier League it’s just an honour.”

Consequences of defeat

Redknapp’s nephew Lampard will no doubt be scratching his head after this performance. History, in truth, was against Chelsea. The Londoners, who claimed all three points on their last league visit to Bramall Lane in October 2006 (2-0), had not won back-to-back games against Sheffield United on the road since 1965.

That said, Lampard’s men have not exactly been in tremendous form away from home this year. Across seven matches they’d claim just two wins, at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, and both were won by a slender one-goal margin.

This erratic form, despite a near perfect home record of late, has left their push for Champions League football next term on tenterhooks. In fact, they could find themselves in fifth place if Leicester City and Manchester United win their respective games this week. That position would be enough to claim a seat at the table if the Court of Arbitration for Sport upholds Manchester City’s two-year ban from European club competitions, but that outcome is far from certain.

As for the victors, this was a fourth consecutive Premier League home win, something they’ve never managed before. McGoldrick also made history, as he’s the oldest player to register a brace against Chelsea. It is something the former Southampton man in fact predicted he would do.

“I have told the lads ‘don’t worry. When it comes I will get a brace’,” he told Sky Sports. “I said in the press I wasn’t concerned. The goals were coming as I have had chances. I hope there is many more to come. It means the world. Made my debut at 16 and I made that dream to play in the Premier League. Now I have another dream of scoring.”

He’s certainly come a long way from cleaning Peter Crouch’s boots on the south coast. Back then McGoldrick, who shared a locker room with Gareth Bale and Adam Lallana, earned £40 a month for the service plus an extra tenner if the former England centre-forward found the net.

It’s never too late for him to follow Crouch’s footsteps and play in Europe. This win leaves his side in sixth place meaning continental football could be heading to Bramall Lane, a prospect no one could have imagined a year ago.