Sheffield United cast off ‘thrifty’ tag ahead of Premier League return

TO those fortunate enough to be born within the boundaries of Yorkshire, careful and thrifty perhaps best sums up the over-riding attitude towards money.
Sheffield United's latest record signing Lys Mousset. Picture: Sheffield UnitedSheffield United's latest record signing Lys Mousset. Picture: Sheffield United
Sheffield United's latest record signing Lys Mousset. Picture: Sheffield United
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Others from elsewhere, however, have been known to see things rather differently with stingy, tight-fisted or just downright mean a few of the labels bestowed upon the good folk of this county.

To those who propagate the latter image, Sheffield United’s weekly breaking of their record transfer fee since the start of July must have come as a big surprise.

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Like Huddersfield Town two summers ago, the Blades have been busy with the chequebook since winning promotion. The weekend capture of Lys Mousset from Bournemouth in a deal that could rise to £10m means the French striker has followed Luke Freeman and Callum Robinson in becoming the club’s most expensive addition.

Another name is expected to enter those same record books soon, Oli McBurnie still very much wanted by Chris Wilder despite Swansea City having recently rebuffed an offer believed to be in the region of £15m.

For a club who not so long ago found raising the funds to pay any sort of fee difficult, doling out £25m with another significant chunk to come on a striker is quite a turnaround and one that Blades fans are hoping will lead to the club surviving in the Premier League.

If this is to be the case, the new faces will be key. Phil Jagielka, back at Bramall Lane after a dozen years away, and Ravel Morrison complete the quintet of signings already made by Wilder, who is understood to be eyeing another three before the window closes on August 8.

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Dean Henderson, the Manchester United goalkeeper, is one of those he wants back on loan. Then there is Leeds-born McBurnie, while the Blades are also this week expected to step up their interest in Nottingham Forest wideman Ben Osborn.

All three are understood to be keen on being part of the club’s top flight adventure, though Wilder did feel minded over the weekend to send a thinly-veiled message to Henderson’s representatives that made clear he may look elsewhere if there is no resolution soon to a deal that is dragging on despite both Uniteds believing it to be in the best interests of the 22-year-old.

The common characteristic among those targeted by Wilder this summer is hunger. Even Jagielka, a former England international, has returned with a desire to put right the wrongs after being part of the United side relegated in 2007.

His experience will be key in a squad that otherwise has only a smattering of Premier League appearances. So, too, will the pace of Robinson in a division where United are likely to be starved of possession so need players capable of making an explosive impact when the opportunity arises.

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Mousset, a bit-part player for three years at Bournemouth, joins Robinson and Freeman in being desperate to prove himself at the top level but perhaps the most intriguing arrival is Morrison on a one-year deal.

His talent has never been in doubt. Not for nothing did Alex Ferguson once rave about Morrison possessing “as much natural talent as any youngster we signed”.

But off-field problems, including several brushes with the law, eventually led to his departure from Old Trafford in 2012. Since then, he has tended to bounce around not only clubs but also leagues with the 2017-18 season spent in Mexico.

Can the Lane prove to be the home from home Morrison has been searching for? Let’s hope so, as his ability to prise open an opposition defence with one pass could be the X-factor United need to prosper among the elite.

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United’s survival prospects are similarly tough to predict. Twas ever thus with a promoted team, even one willing to invest heavily in the quest to stay up.

A year ago, for instance, Fulham were being patted on the back for splashing £100m and yet they never looked like avoiding the drop once the action got under way due to the spirit and togetherness that had brought promotion being eroded by the sheer weight of new arrivals.

The blueprint for United’s survival, in fact, lays with Huddersfield, albeit hopefully with more goals than the 28 scored by David Wagner’s side in 2017-18. Like the Blades in recent weeks, the Terriers marked the first summer after promotion by splashing the cash like never before.

Inside a fortnight, Town’s transfer record was smashed four times and this £40m spree helped Huddersfield to the sort of start that all promoted clubs desperately crave. The first six games yielded a vital nine points, a vital cushion for the winter slump that briefly took Huddersfield into the relegation zone.

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Then, though, the addition of Alex Pritchard for £10m and loanee Terence Kongolo during the January window brought the required bounce, underlining the need for the Blades to display typical Yorkshire husbandry and keep enough cash in reserve for the start of 2020.