Sheffield United 1 Burnley 0 - ‘I know where my future is, I didn’t come here to be a manager’
David McGoldrick, this week voted the club’s player of the year, scored his eighth Premier League goal of the campaign midway through the first half as the Blades won for just the seventh time in the league this season.
Three of those victories came in the nine matches under the stewardship of interim boss Paul Heckingbottom, who is likely to now return to his role with the Under-23 squad.
The relegated Blades, who finished bottom of the table, have known their fate for some time and will now look to appoint a permanent successor to Chris Wilder, who left in March after just over four and a half years in charge.
Heckingbottom again called for a quick appointment now that the season has concluded and the 43-year-old believes the new manager could enjoy a successful Sky Bet Championship campaign if he keeps the current squad together.
“I’ve had a brief chat with (chief executive) Stephen Bettis and we have an Under-23 final tomorrow that we want to win, then I will be getting my feet up and getting away and spending some time with my family,” said Heckingbottom on his own future.
“I know where my future is, I didn’t come here to be a manager, so I’m hoping we make a decision and appointment as it’s really important we do and really important that everyone understands who will be taking the team next season – there’s players and staff need talking to.
“If we keep the group together we will have a great chance next season. I believe this group can do it and I believe whoever will be in charge is taking over a good hungry group, there is certainly enough quality in there.”
Sunday’s match was the first played at Bramall Lane in front of supporters since March 7 last year, when the Blades beat Norwich 1-0 to continue their challenge for a place in Europe.
Things have changed drastically in their absence and the home fans saw their team start slowly as a succession of corners either side of the 10-minute mark saw Burnley make a bright start. However, the Blades survived the early pressure and took the lead after 24 minutes.
McGoldrick netted his ninth goal of the season with a fine curling finish from 25 yards out which found the bottom corner of the net following a driving run after receiving the ball midway inside the Burnley half.
Will Norris should probably have done better and you could not help but feel that if the injured Nick Pope was in the Burnley goal then he would have saved the shot. Burnley offered little in reply and Chris Basham came close to a second goal when he thumped a fierce shot against a post following a corner.
McGoldrick had a couple of chances to score his and the Blades’ second goal of the game early in the second half but the ball got stuck under his feet inside the penalty area, before he looped a header over the crossbar shortly afterwards.
Burnley’s best chance of an equalising goal came with 11 minutes remaining but nobody in a Clarets shirt could turn the ball home following a big goalmouth scramble.
Club-record signing Rhian Brewster’s wait for his first Blades goal will extend into next season as Norris got down well to smother his low shot from 20 yards.
The hosts survived some late pressure, with Jack Robinson having to clear the ball from just in front of his own goal line after Chris Wood tried to poke it home, but the Blades held on for a rare but deserved victory.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche is unsure whether Pope will be fit for next month’s European Championship campaign with England.
The Clarets goalkeeper is a doubt for Euro 2020 due to an impending operation on his knee.
The 29-year-old will undergo surgery on Tuesday – the day England manager Gareth Southgate names his squad for the tournament, which begins on June 11.
Although Jordan Pickford is widely recognised by most as England’s No 1, Pope was in possession of the gloves having started all three games in the most recent international break. “It’s nothing too serious, we don’t think, but it still needed doing,” said Dyche.
“He was trying to get right for this game to give it a test but didn’t quite come through in training, so he and we have had to make a judgment call on that.
“It’s mainly down to him. It was awkward and sore, there’s some cartilage and he could feel a clicking in his knee. He’s had to take the decision to have the operation, it’s a tough decision, and we don’t know how long it will take to settle. He will have that done this week – Tuesday I think it is – and hopefully it will settle down for a quick recovery. Will he be fit for the Euros? That will be down to the surgeon. We will have to see after the surgery.”
Pope missed Burnley’s final three matches of the season – all of which ended in defeat for the Clarets.
“It’s been the story of our season, but when we have had all our players fit we have looked a very good side,” said Dyche, whose team finished 17th in the table.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale, Basham, Egan, Robinson, Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens, McGoldrick, Osborn (Jagielka 83), Jebbison (Brewster 79). Unused substitutes: Lundstram, Lowe, Foderingham, Bogle, Bryan, Brunt, Osula.
Burnley: Norris, Lowton, Tarkowski, Dunne, Taylor, Gudmundsson (Barnes 89), Westwood, Cork, McNeil (Rodriguez 70), Brownhill (Vydra 46), Wood. Unused substitutes: Peacock-Farrell, Pieters, Nartey, Richardson, Driscoll-Glennon.
Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).
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