Record buy Sander Berge says fifth is not enough for Sheffield United

Sheffield United's Sander Berge (left) and Crystal Palace's James McArthur battle for the ball.
Sheffield United's Sander Berge (left) and Crystal Palace's James McArthur battle for the ball.
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Some video clips, a bit of training ground work with the youngsters and some homework on Crystal Palace was all the preparation Sander Berge got for his Premier League debut, but the £22m midfielder says adapting to his new team was easy, even if getting used to the physicality of the Premier League was not.

The Blades threw their record signing straight into a full debut at Selhurst Park on Saturday, and he played his part in a 1-0 win.

“It’s easy to come into this team, I only had one-and-a-half (training) sessions more or less, but the fans and the way we fought in this game and got the win in the end was massive,” said Berge, who joined from Champions League side Genk on Thursday.

“To go straight in was special. I enjoyed it and tried to make the best of it. It’s an easy team to adapt to because we have a clear plan of how we want to play.

“But it’s the Premier League and I’m used to Belgium, I think I worked harder in 60 minutes than I ever did in 90 minutes in Belgium!

“The pace, the intensity, there’s never a break in the game and it goes faster. It’s a different role to the one I’ve played before which demands more but I’ll grow into that.

“I want to be the best I can be from the first moment but I’ll get better and better.”

Berge was substituted after 68 minutes.

The fans have immediately taken to the Norway international, who threw his shirt into the Selhurst Park away section after a victory which moved the Blades up to fifth in the Premier League - they dropped to sixth after Tottenham’s win on Sunday - and the effect on morale was part of manager Chris Wilder’s thinking in starting the 21-year-old ahead of John Lundstram.

“The owner told me I had to play him!” joked Wilder. “He wasn’t paying that sort of money to stick him in the stand!

“Nah, we’d tracked him, he’d trained and we thought it would give us a boost.

“We took him on board for 48 hours, talked to him and set up some fundamental aspects he needed to know about how we play.

“We used video clips, worked on the training-ground grass, playing against the kids, setting up what we expect from the opposition. We worked away on that and with a bit of detail.

“Premier League players have to be intelligent as well as physically and technically very good. They have to be able to adapt to different formations, different teams and different ways of playing, and we believed Sander would. On Saturday he did.”

The game was decided by a moment of good fortune when Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita dropped Oliver Norwood’s corner over his own goalline.

“The club can go a long way, that’s the ambition,” said Berge. “For me, it’s about adapting to the team and the Premier League.

“Fifth in the league is fantastic but we cannot stop there, we’ll just push forward and try and win the next game.”

Deadline-day loan signings Richairo Zivkovic and Panagiotis Retsos were not registered in time to play.

The Blades’ trio of overseas signings have been brought in to raise standards, and Wilder has already been pleased with the response.

“I thought the performances of John Lundstram and (Lys) Mousset when they came on was just typical of their attitudes,” he said. “The togetherness of the group was first class.

“When you’re bringing players in in January, it raises the bar for other players. It certainly did last week and will do going into the second half of the season.

“There’s a lot of good things happening at this football club but we’ve got to keep going onto the next challenge, which is Brighton on Sunday.”

Crystal Palace v Sheffield United report: Page 3