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Thread: United Season Review 18-19 Summary

  1. #1
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    United Season Review 18-19 Summary

    2018/19 SUFC SCHOOL REPORT

    As I have traditionally done at the end of the last few seasons; it is that time again when I write a review of the campaign and also compile a school report for the different sections of the club. I will look at how they have fared and what are the prospects for next season for each respective department of the club.

    People might actually read this one! It might veer on the positive somewhat!


    I will begin with the review and a breakdown of the board and manager/s.

    Over the next few weeks I will add to this with breakdowns of the players/squad at the club and do the same. I will look at contract situations (may be wrong with some of these so again come in if I have got any wrong) and what might happen to each area of the team.

    Feel free to add comments/disagree/debate.....after each post I make.

    I have graded the board, the manager, players and the fans; in a traditional school report style of A+ to F- (every player who started at least one game- think I may have graded a few others too). Should really mark the new GCSE style numbering 1-9 but that would get really confusing!
    I have had to grade players based on the games they did play so some players who played a lot more may still get a lower grade despite disproportionate number of games in comparison. I have also tried to discuss some of the u23 players. I have left out all the u18 eligible players and just concentrated on first team/u23’s and any loanee, both with us and those we have loaned out.
    Of course, whilst I have seen all the home games; I have seen half a dozen live away and then every other league game via steams/SKY/Red button feeds so hopefully a bit fairer than years past when admittedly I have not seen every game. This time I do not believe I have missed a minute of action!
    If I have missed anyone then please say. Feel free to weigh in with critique, opinions and even in some cases agreements!


    Season review

    United had started the previous season fantastically and at various points in the lead up to Xmas occupied the top place in the Championship. Quite an achievement after only coming up the league before. United’s style of play drew praise aplenty as Wilder’s unique style and attacking philosophy certainly shocked quite a few established sides at this new higher level. Wins at Wednesday and Leeds had the fans dreaming of a remarkable back to back promotion. Sadly, an injury to Paul Coutts and some key injuries and drop off in form; meant United could not quite keep the same levels of consistency. January signings did not really work and eventually United dropped out of the playoff places. For much of the season they were right there in the shake up so the eventual finishing place of 10th was maybe not a true reflection of how well they had done. Indeed, they were right in the mix for the playoffs even up the final few weeks of the season. The season ended with speculation over Chris Wilder’s future with genuine concerns he may leave amidst interest from Sunderland. Off the field matters were not helping with a very public falling out between the two owners no nearer to being settled. This would rumble and even now we await a court case.

    Eventually Wilder was given enough assurances from those ‘in charge’ to remain. One of his first jobs was to have to allow the sale of protégé David Brooks whose head was turned by agents and Premier League interest. United were allowed to bring in John Egan for a club record 4 million pounds, goalkeeper Dean Henderson on loan from Manchester United to replace the outgoing Jamal Blackman who ended up at rivals Leeds. He also brought in free agent David McGoldrick and loan signing Ben Woodburn. Young centre back Kean Bryan also arrived from Man City. A number of other players were allowed to leave on loan or for free with the likes of Carruthers, Thomas, Heneghan, Lavery, Holmes and several young players departing on loan and George Long and Clayton Donaldson leaving permanently. United still appeared to lack depth in the striking department as the season started relying on the partnership of Sharp and Clarke; that had done so well last season.

    Thoughts ahead of the season were that United had made some decent signings but maybe not quite added the quality needed to better the placing from last season. There were concerns over the lack of attacking options with Brooks gone and concerns whether the front two could replicate the goals of last season. Coutts was also not quite ready and Evans/Leonard/Lundstram had still not totally convinced in this area. Opinions of the finish ranged from some saying we could be an outside punt for the playoffs to a similar position to last season. Not many supporters anticipated them to be much lower than mid table and that included those supporters from other Championship clubs.


    August

    The season kicked off with real disappointment. A very ordinary performance against relegated Swansea saw United lead with a goal from a wing back Baldock but they were pegged back and, in the end, overrun by pace and skill that saw an opening day defeat. Disaster followed a few days later with a thumping defeat at Middlesbrough when newcomers Egan and Henderson looking very shaky. A few of the old guard, namely Duffy and Freeman came back in for the game at QPR with United sitting bottom before the game. After going a goal down; it looked like the disastrous start to the season would continue but Sharp equalised thanks for an assist from Freeman. Sub McGoldrick then won and converted the winner from the penalty spot and United were up and running.
    A few days later saw some transfer movement with Lee Evans moving out to Wigan and Oliver Norwood coming in on loan from Brighton with both transfers effectively permanent deals.

    United lost out to Hull on penalties in the League Cup but Norwood had an outstanding debut despite missing a spot kick in the shootout. He repeated this showing a few days later as United beat Norwich with Egan scoring his first goal. Jordan Rhodes, on loan from Wednesday somewhat inevitably scored and then despite United looking the more likely had to survive a 4 on 1 when Henderson made a ***** save. In the last minute of stoppage time; Sharp nodded in the winner to send the crowd into raptures.
    United were now up and running and a confident and assured performance saw them take a poor Bolton side apart despite the Lancashire sides relatively elevated position at the time. Duffy, Freeman and Fleck all scored. United finished the opening month in 7th and had recovered from a really poor start.
    Towards the end of the month United also allowed Ryan Leonard to move to Millwall and brought in Connor Washington from QPR and Marvin Johnson. Martin Cranie also came in on a short-term deal to provide defensive cover.

    September

    The first game of the month saw a superb performance as the Blades destroyed an expensively assembled Villa side. The first half was as good a display seen at the Lane for many years with O’Connell, Duffy and Norwood scoring. 3-0 actually flattered Villa at half time. Sharp added another in the 4-1 win. This performance really made the Championship sit up and take notice. New signings Henderson, Egan, Norwood and McGoldrick were all now in fine form. After the international break, United missed first half chances at Bristol City and lost to a late goal and then a poor performance against Birmingham saw United lucky to escape with a draw.
    A few days later, United were coasting at home to Preston with goals from Sharp and Basham but two goals in quick succession towards the end of the game stunned the home fans but great work from Stevens saw him lay on a winner for McGoldrick and the Blades were back to winning ways.
    A week later a similar scenario saw United dominate at Millwall and they were leading thanks to Sharp’s header (who also missed a penalty) but the home side hit them with two quick sucker punches and somehow United trailed. They kept their composure and moved the ball around and eventually got level with another penalty, this time scored from McGoldrick before the same man scored after another lovely team move. United had moved up to 4th place.

    October

    Blackburn had not lost at home for almost a year but Sharp scored two predatory goals in a very good team performance with the defence excellent again. Norwood was continuing to pull the strings in the middle of the park. The following weekend, United edged a tight game against Hull with McGoldrick netting the winner from the spot and suddenly the Blades were top.
    United then came back from another international break with a defeat but had battered Derby at home for most of the first half despite conceding in the first minute. A lovely goal finished by Basham and some superb football saw United completely take over. However, they failed to take advantage and were second best after the break and Derby scored the winner. United then dominated Stoke at the Lane and Clarke got his first of the season but a poor error from Henderson saw a late free kick give the visitors an unjust point. The next game though United were maybe not as impressive but saw off Wigan 4-2 and were much more clinical this time with a superb Sharp hat trick. United finished the month at the top of the league!

  2. #2
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    November

    A flat performance at Forest saw a Grabban goal decide a game of little quality from either side and then it was the Steel City Derby. United dominated from start to finish against a very negative Wednesday side but McGoldrick missed a penalty and despite completely dictating the game, they could not find the ***** goal.
    A couple of weeks later, United were abject at the New York Stadium despite leading thanks to a lovely Duffy finish but somehow kept Rotherham to only one goal with Henderson denying them time after time. Unbelievably, Basham scored at the death and United had snatched it…or had they….a series of errors from player after player led to a Rotherham equaliser. In truth though United were lucky to take anything from the game.
    After a poor month, United needed a big performance in the capital and got it winning 3-2 at Brentford with a superb Norwood strike and then a late winner from Clarke getting a crucial victory.

    December

    Leeds came to town riding high under the Bielsa led revolution but United were the better side but chances went begging and an awful Henderson error led to a tap in to give Leeds the win. Another flat showing at Reading a week later, saw United up the ante when it mattered and poacher Sharp and an own goal in as many minutes saw them get the win in front of the Sky cameras. Another television outing saw United take on West Brom but as they had in other games both this season and last, they controlled things, took the lead but failed to build on it and the Baggies got level before half time and then went onto win it. Even though United were still in 4th you felt that they still lacked the belief against the better teams and two disappointing defeats at the Lane in the month had some questioning if United could stay the course again. Only a point at a dreadful Ipswich side with a Sharp leveller; did not provide the bounce back the fans wanted to see.

    Boxing Day saw Frank Lampard and Derby at the Lane. A big crowd saw United lead thanks to Sharp but United were denied a stonewall penalty and then Wilson hit an exocet of a free kick and it seemed a case of déjà vu against a fellow promotion contender. The crowd woke up after a melee after the Derby goal and the injustice of the officiating saw United’s fans turn up the decibel level. McGoldrick scored a peach of a lob at the Kop End and then Clarke nodded home via deflection and the crowd went berserk. United had finally beaten a rival at the top of the league. You felt the team get extra belief from this game and a few days later despite another shocking refereeing display that saw Basham unjustly sent off and then a Blackburn man also go soon after; Sharp scored a quick-fire brace and McGoldrick cleverly finished a team move and United won 3-0 in a game that they seemed to be in trouble at with 10 men at 0-0. United were back up to 4th place.

    January
    New Years Day and Wigan were turned aside with McGoldrick, Duffy and then Sharp; who in scoring broke the record for goals by a player in the English League since the millennium. United were looking the part now despite a desperately disappointing defeat to non-league Barnet where the back-ups/fringe players let manager Wilder down; the league form was solid. Kieran Dowell came in as an alternative in the attacking midfield position with Ben Woodburn going back to Liverpool after this particular moved had not worked out. Martin Cranie also earned a longer contract at United.

    A workmanlike performance saw another McGoldrick goal against QPR settling the contest but the following week, the same man missed a big chance as did Sharp and Swansea completed the double with nemesis McBurnie scoring against the Blades again.

    United bounced back to get a deserved draw at Norwich coming from behind twice with Sharp scoring both goals and bringing out an unusual celebration in tribute to former WWE star Mick Foley in the process of scoring his first goal! The fact United matched the Canaries was another positive sign as it seemed to be these two and Leeds who were jostling for the all-important positions. United were now 3rd place but had Boro, West Brom, Derby and a fast-improving Bristol City just behind them.

    At the end of the month, United brought in additional striking options on loan with Scott Hogan coming in from Aston Villa and the more controversial Gary Madine arriving from Cardiff. Madine’s past history with United and especially skipper Sharp meant the move divided opinion. Out went Leon Clarke, on loan to Wigan.

    February
    Bolton provided tough opposition but McGoldrick and Sharp both scored again. The following week, United dominated Villa again and were 3-0 up with another Sharp hat trick and were coasting. The top of the league beckoned again but a series of individual errors saw United somehow let in three goals in less than 10 minutes (including stoppage time) and somehow, they had only drawn the game. It seemed a make or break moment in the season and players/fans were stunned at the complete throwaway.

    The next game a gutsy performance where a number of key men were missing, saw Madine come on and make a difference and another forgotten man Stearman also came on and scored against a very direct and physical Pulis side who saw Ayala sent off for two cynical fouls. A few days later and the returning Freeman scored in the first attack and then Madine scored twice as United hammered Reading 4-0.

    A series of crucial games beckoned and a tough trip to a talented West Brom side. Kieran Dowell scored after the centre back Cranie had sprinted forward to cross and United played very well. Henderson made a crucial late save but in truth United were full value for the win and the scenes at full time showed a togetherness on and off the field as United moved back into the promotion places.

    March

    The return game with Wednesday saw the third successive 0-0 draw with both sides missing a chance apiece but it was another dire game between the two city rivals. United then had two home games of a different type. Helped by a stupid red card from Millers skipper Vaulks, United scored early from a lovely set play routine finished by O’Connell and then Duffy hit a cracker to seal the win. The following Tuesday and United had to play with ten with Madine sent off with United leading at the time. A back to the wall performance saw some heroic defending for over an hour and then McGoldrick headed home to spark jubilant scenes and another massive victory.

    United then went to Elland Road for the big promotion show down and were second best for much of the first half as Leeds missed some good chances. United gradually grew into the game and Basham, playing in an unfamiliar midfield role, got on the end of clever play from Sharp, to drive home. United saw things out and got the massive win.

    After the international break, United went into the final run in placed in 2nd and with 8 games to play. United led twice against Bristol City and at 4.30pm United were 5 points ahead of Leeds as the Blades led and their Yorkshire rivals trailed. Things turned around though and a Weimann hat trick saw United suffer their first home defeat since mid-December and they were back down to third as Leeds went onto win.

    April
    A week later and it all turned around again as United won at Deepdale with McGoldrick getting another winner but former Blade Che Adams doing us a favour as he scored the winner for Birmingham against Leeds. Incredibly we saw another swing in the mid-week matches as Leeds won at Preston and United drew at St Andrews and it was the West Yorkshire side back in the box seat. The following week saw a pivotal turn in the race as United playing first took the lead against Millwall thanks to Gary Madine after good work from Fleck; but injuries to Basham and Sharp meant United lost their shape and composure. They were hanging on for the last 20 minutes and further disaster struck when Egan was sent off conceding a penalty. Millwall missed the spot kick but United did not heed the warning and a 94th minute leveller was an absolute body blow. To compound things Leeds beat city rivals Wednesday a few hours later and the lead was three points.
    Good Friday saw Forest in town; a team United had not beaten since coming back up but United kept their nerve and a superb strike from Duffy and a late clincher from the excellent Enda Stevens. More drama came in a few hours later as Leeds lost at home to ten men Wigan with former Blades Leon Clarke and Lee Evans influential for the Latics.

    A few days later and Easter Monday saw the Blades go to Hull. The Tigers had not lost at home this calendar year but United were rampant with McGoldrick scoring twice and then Stevens again making it 3-0. Leeds once again played a few hours later and they blew it again losing at Brentford. United now looked like they were on the cusp of promotion with two games to get the required three points, potentially only three with the superior goal difference. Incredibly they still had a sniff of the title with Norwich faltering with four straight draws.

  3. #3
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    May
    United played Ipswich in front of a sold-out Bramall Lane and put in a proper performance. They dominated from the start and after a few chances, an O’Connell overlap saw Duffy find him and the ball came across for Hogan to flick home. The Blades had more chances with Norwood hitting the post and Egan heading over but then with 20 minutes left, Fleck’s corner was powered home by O’Connell in off the bar. United saw out the game easily and they were nearly there! Norwich won at home to Blackburn to seal promotion a few hours later. United fans and players watched Leeds at home to Villa and despite incredible scenes where goals went in at either end in unusual circumstances; the draw confirmed that mathematically the Blades were up!
    Party scenes had begun a day earlier on London Road and continued for the next 24 hours with the players and fans mixing together at the hotel before the player of the year celebration. John Egan gave us his song that he had written that now will go down in folklore!

    United still had a chance of the title a week later but needed a favour from Villa but Norwich were able to complete the job and won 2-1. The Blades drew 2-2 at Stoke with a less than inspiring first half but a much improved 2nd half performance with a goal from Dowell and another from Stevens seeing United get a point. All that was left was for the celebrations in the car park and at the town hall parade which saw so many great scenes.

    Summary (sorry not got all stats for last season to compare)
    Final League Position: 2nd (Last season 10th)
    Won 26 ,Drew 11, Lost 9 (Last season - Won 20, Drew 9, Lost 17)

    Scored 78 (Last season 62)
    37 right foot goals, 15 left foot goals, 22 headed goals 4 other
    69 scored inside the box
    5 penalties
    Total shots 579 – 14th in the league but at 19% - highest conversion rate and most inside the box in the league

    Conceded 41 (Last season 55) – 21 clean sheets – most in the league
    Average possession: 52%
    Passing accuracy: 76%
    Average age: 27.52 (2nd highest in league to Forest)

    Individual stats
    Leading Scorer: Sharp 23 (Last season Clarke 19)
    Most Appearances: Henderson 46 – played every minute in the league (Last season O’Connell 46)
    Most Assists: Norwood 12 (Last season Duffy 9)
    Most shots: McGoldrick 118
    Passes: Norwood 2957 (Last season O’Connell 2551)
    Tackles: Stevens 112
    Interceptions: Norwood 74 (Last season O’Connell 104)
    Dribbles: Fleck 88 (Last season Fleck 102)
    Clearances: Egan 257 (Last season O’Connell 201)
    Blocks (crosses/passes/shots): Stevens 99
    Average Crowd: 26,177

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