John Lundstram is relishing fight for a Sheffield United shirt

John Lundstram says his performances have been “lifted” by the threat Sander Berge poses to his Sheffield United place.

John Lundstram of Sheffield Utd.

The midfielder has been on the bench since the Blades paid a club record £22m for the Norwegian international in January.

Rather than sulk, 25-year-old Lundstram has responded with a good performance from the bench at Crystal Palace and a match-winning display against Bournemouth.

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“Sander has come in and we’ve done really well, with two wins on the bounce,” said Lundstram, who has started 22 of his club’s 26 Premier League games this season. His winning goal against the Cherries was his fourth.

“He’s obviously a fantastic player but we’ve all got to stand up now and rise to the challenge, and that’s what we’re all trying to do.

“Not just with Sander but with all the new signings the gaffer’s brought into the club. It’s only good for the squad and the club, and these lads raising their game and competing for places can hopefully propel us up the table.

“New players coming in raises the standards of everyone, definitely. It gives everyone a lift when players come in who play your position.

“And because you’re all fighting for the shirt at the end of the day, it’s good competition.

“You need that, I think, in the squad. It’s great around the place at the minute.”

Manager Chris Wilder made five additions in the January transfer window, also bringing in Panagiotis Retsos and Richairo Zivkovic on loan, and Jack Rodwell and Jack Robinson permanently. He has consistently explained he wanted to increase competition and raise standards at Bramall Lane.

Lundstram has shown before he responds in the right way to pressure on his place. He played a bit-part in last season’s promotion-winning Championship season but a tweak in formation from 3-4-1-2 to 3-5-2 has allowed the attacking midfielder to flourish in the Premier League.

Dean Henderson’s place in the Blades’ XI is guaranteed – the only league match the on-loan goalkeeper has missed in his two seasons with the club was one he was ineligible for because it was against his parent club Manchester United – but he is helping create competition at England level.

The Under-21 international is uncapped at senior level but his assured performances this season have been in contrast with the error-strewn displays from first choice Jordan Pickford.

Gareth Southgate has only two March friendlies, against Italy and Denmark, before naming his squad for this season’s European Championships. But this time two years ago, Pickford only had one cap, yet he has been England’s No 1 ever since, playing a vital role in the Three Lions’ run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.

Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp is staying out of the debate about who should be Southgate’s No 1 in the summer – Burnley’s Nick Pope is also making a strong case – but did say 22-year-old Henderson is the best goalkeeper he has ever played with.

“Deano wants to make saves and keep clean sheets,” said Sharp. “He made a great save in our last game (against Bournemouth) to keep it at 1-1 and help us win the game.

“Even if he wasn’t playing for United (I’d be saying the same) if he was putting in performances like he has been. He’s made one error this season (at home to Liverpool).

“Pickford’s a great goalkeeper as well. It’s not up to me who picks England’s No 1 but I’d have to say he (Henderson) is the best goalkeeper I’ve ever played with and he’s got a great career ahead of him.”

Sheffield United are keen on keeping Henderson next season, and there has even been a suggestion they might be able to buy him if they allow the Red Devils a buy-back clause, but it is a sign of how he has progressed that Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked.

The Blades have been to Dubai for some warm-weather training during their mid-season break. They will return sixth in the Premier League after Tottenham leapfrogged them at the weekend, but with the added incentive of knowing that Manchester City’s two-year ban from European football could open up an extra qualification place unless it is successfully appealed.

The time away has also allowed the new signings to further integrate into the squad, and Sharp thinks the club has made good use of the trip.

“It was good to get the boys rested up,” he said. “We’ve had some good training too and it’s been a good trip – one that’s hopefully going to push us on for the rest of the season.

“They (the new players) have all integrated very well they’ve settled now. It must be hard for the foreign lads coming in especially.

“But I’ve spoken to them all individually and they’re all enjoying their part of the journey so far.

“We just want to keep pushing on. In the last quarter of the season we just want to keep pushing each other to try and achieve something very special.”