Now Jayden Bogle is hoping it can be a starting point for what would be a remarkable escape from relegation.
The Blades have been consistently opposed to the idea championed by some of the Premier League’s leading clubs that sides should be allowed to make five substitutes in league games.
The likes of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola argue it is important to reduce the number of injuries picked up in this truncated campaign on the back of a shortened pre-season. Managers such as Chris Wilder believes it skews the competition too much in favour of bigger squads.
He lost the argument in the summer, with five substitutes allowed when the season restarted after Covid-19, but the less well-resourced clubs have repeatedly won it since.
Somewhat bafflingly, after the latest attempt to introduce the measure failed, the Premier League did agree the three substitutes could be chosen from nine, rather than the usual seven.
Without it, Bogle does not think he would have been in the squad to have faced Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday. He came off the bench to make his Premier League debut, and scored the deflected goal which ended Sheffield United’s eight-match losing streak with a 1-1 draw.
“It was a great feeling to make my debut,” he said. “There was frustration at the end not to see out the win. With nine players on the bench I made it onto it and I was told to go and warm up. Just like that it happened, too quickly to think about it, really. That was probably a good thing.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Right wing-back Bogle, a summer signing from Derby County, made his Blades debut at Burnley in the League Cup in September, but Sunday was the first time he had been in a match-day Premier League squad, let alone having made it onto the pitch.
As he pointed out, that does not mean he has not had his part to play.
“Everyone contributes as much as possible,” he stressed. “Whether you’re in the squad or out of the the squad it’s important to have a positive dressing room and I think we’ve got that.”
With left-back Solly March causing the 10-man Blades problems, Bogle was brought on to play in front of George Baldock in a 4-4-1 formation. From there, he got forward onto David McGoldrick’s pass to put his side in front.
They held the lead for 24 minutes until Danny Welbeck’s 87th-minute volley denied the Blades their first win of the season.
But having played for 50 minutes with 10 men after John Lundstram was sent off for a tackle on Joel Veltman, and on the back of Thursday’s encouraging performance in a 3-2 defeat at home to Manchester United, Bogle could see plenty of cause for optimism despite just two points from 14 games.
“I didn’t really see (the red card) clearly but there’s not much we can do now to change it,” he said. “It just shows the attitude we had out there afterwards to keep going.
“We showed great fight in our own box to keep the ball out of the net, and whether we have 11 or 10 men on the pitch we’re going to keep fighting and make it difficult for other teams.
“It was massive (to end the losing sequence). Every point is important in the Premier League and it was a good performance as well, regardless of how many points we got from the game. We can take that into the next game and keep fighting.
“They had some good chances (most notably Alireza Jahanbakhsh hitting the post in stoppage time) but we had a great chance to go 2-0 up as well (for Oliver Burke).
“It’s just how football goes sometimes. We’ve got to take the positives and move on quickly.”
The Blades host Everton on Boxing Day evening before matches at Burnley and Crystal Palace.
“I just think we need to take each game in our stride and build performances,” said Bogle.
“We need to take confidence from Brighton. We need to stick together as a group and focus on the things we do well on and off the pitch and stick together when it comes to a game-day.
“I definitely think we’ve still got a chance because we’ve got a great dressing room and a great coaching staff.
“It’s just important to keep putting positive performances on the pitch and things will start to change for us.”