But by the time the final whistle blew, all the talk was about an enigmatic striker from France and his second goal in as many outings.
Today's fixture, the first league clash between these two clubs since the Carlos Tevez Affair 12 years ago, appeared to be heading the hosts' way when a defensive lapse presented Robert Snodgrass which the opportunity to open the scoring. But Lys Mousset's introduction, coupled with United's ability to cut out some of the careless mistakes which had stalled their progress before the interval, ensured Chris Wilder's men took a point from the contest and preserved an unbeaten run away from home stretching back to January.
Mousset was pushed to the front of United's celebrations when referee David Coote brought proceedings to a close. And, as his name echoed around the ground, it is clear a new cult hero at Bramall Lane has now been born.
The result saw United climb to seventh, comfortably the highest of all the newly promoted teams.
Wilder, a lifelong United fan and former player, insisted it was time to put events in 2007, when his employers were relegated in controversial fashion, permanently to bed. Within five or so minutes, he might have been regretting that statement as a supposedly highly-charged fixture began in low key fashion.
West Ham, who ultimately paid the visitors compensation after admitting Tevez was subject to a third party ownership agreement, had their moments. So to, albeit on a pretty sporadic basis, did United. But there was little of the highly charged atmosphere some had predicted. Indeed, until midway through the first-half, there was little to write home about. Even less so when, from United's perspective, Snodgrass pounced only seconds before the break.
The second was much more productive from their point of view. Admittedly, as United began to press forward in greater numbers, it provided West Ham with several possibilities. But when Mousset levelled - his finish revealing a high degree of technical expertise - it was a reward for their persistence and resilience.
Speaking before United boarded the coach south, Wilder had teased Pellegrini with talk of potentially wholesale changes to his starting eleven; suggesting the win over Arsenal five days earlier might have taken its toll, both mentally and physically, on his squad. When the starting elevens were announced, Wilder did make a change. But only to recall centre-forward Callum Robinson, at Mousset's expense.
After a tepid opening, which saw both sides struggle to retain possession, the first genuine moment of quality came from the boot of Felipe Morais. Previously of Lazio, the Brazil international was a whisker away from opening the scoring with a long-range effort which flew just past Dean Henderson's left hand post. Instead it was Snodgrass who broke the deadlock, after David McGoldrick had seen n attempt scrambled off the line by Roberto and Robinson had somehow conspired the head the ball backwards from John Lundstram's cross. That miss, the Republic of Ireland international appeared to be distracted by the goalkeeper's presence as they both homed in on the ball, proved costly when, soon after, Unitred's defence was breached.
Basham lost his balance when heading Roberto's clearance upfield and, when the ball fell kindly at Andriy Yarmolenko's feet, he spotted Snodgrass had a clear route to goal and squared for his team mate. As United attempted to recover their positions and Henderson advanced, Snodgrass slid home.
United, and George Baldock in particular, had chances to level before Mousset restored parity. Baldock whipped the ball into the penalty area, Issa Diop failed to clear convincingly and Enda Stevens then got involved. When Mousset received possession, he repositioned his body and swept the ball home in clinical fashion. Snodgrass struck the woodwork for West Ham during the closing stages but United held firm.
West Ham United: Roberto, Cresswell, Balbuena, Zabaleta, Yarmolenko, Anderson (Lanzini 66), Snodgrass (Ajeti 86), Noble (Fornals 78), Haller, Diop, Rice. Not used: Martin, Sanchez, Ogbonna, Fredericks.
Sheffield United: Henderson, O'Connell, Egan, Basham, Baldock, Stevens, Norwood (Mousset 64), Fleck, Lundstam, McGoldrick (Besic 79), Robinson (Sharp 54). Not used: Moore, L Freeman, McBurnie, Jagielka.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).