37 min Freeman’s made a good start here – he’s always looking to move the ball forward, and quickly.
36 min Van Aanholt looks mean as he takes command of the situation, then drives the ball straight into the wall like he intended that all along.
35 min Egan goes in late on Townsend, giving Palace a free-kick 25 yards from goal, right of centre…
32 min Lovely from Freeman, drilling a luscious ball over the top for Robinson. He can smell the defender behind him, so takes a swipe and fails to connect properly, but that switch of play was very nice.
32 min Of course, the worry for United is if Zaha does something brilliant, and for a second he looks to have isolated Basham, who sees him away pretty well.
30 min United knock it about at the back for a bit, like 80s Liverpool with a 1-0 lead and George Courtney refereeing. They look really composed, but and the likelier of the two teams – they seem to have more ideas as to how they might score, even if they don’t much like they will score.
28 min Fleck is down with what looks like cramp, but it can’t be. He accepts treatment then slowly walks off – it’s his knee, I reckon – and Luke Freeman, newly arrived from QPR, replaces him.
26 min United try the old Anderton-Sheringham corner, clipped to a man in line with the near post; I’m not sure who it is, but he’s immediately charged down.
25 min Blades are coming! McGoldrick puls right and lays off to Baldock, who swings over another nice cross; it’s nodded clear, then Norwood smashes a shot into some nearby shins and the ball flies over.
23 min Stevens lashes a shot goalwards and it hits Joel Ward on an arm that’s folded tight to his body; the ref says no pen and so do the others refs. “V-A-R! V-A-R!” chant the crowd. I expletive despair.
22 min Palace win another corner, which Milivojevic drills to the bear post; it looks dangerous, but it’s well cleared by Baldock (I think).
20 min Zaha wins a corner down the left, which Milivojevic takes … and Henderson flies out his goal to punch clear. He does not lack for confidence and will, I think, develop into a serious keeper.
19 min “Not sure how long you’ve been nursing that one or why it has any relevance to a game between the Blades and Palace,” emails Richard Harris, “but I think the main beef was about West Ham having two players – Tevez and Mascherano – who had third party owners and shouldn’t have been allowed to play. Tevez scored the winner against the supposedly weakened United didn’t he?”
Yes, there was also complaining about that, Cuz. I know exactly how long I’ve been nursing it because I know exactly when it happened – 13 May 2007 – and the reason it’s relevant now is that it was the last time Blades played a game in the top division.
18 min United are neat and tidy in possession, but might perhaps move it a little quicker – perhaps they will as they settle.
16 min Zaha gets away down the left, but a heavy touch sees him run straight into Basham, who clears. There’s a lot of toil here, but not so much of anything else.
14 min Palace knock it about briefly but United are onto them quickly. You can tell by the runs they make how settled they are – the question is whether they can find the necessary quality to survive.
12 min Ward gets himself down the right, linking up with Townsend before larruping a cross over the bar.
10 min The cross goes to the back post, where Egan heads wide.
10 min Baldock gets down the right and cuts inside, curling in a decent cross which Kelly nuts behind.
7 min I’d like to get something off my chest: last time Sheffield United were in the Premier League, Neil Warnock chastised Alex Ferguson for picking a weakened team for Manchester United’s final game of the season, which they lost to West Ham, sending the Blades down. United were already league champions and had the FA Cup final to come, but that side was: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Brown, Heinze, Evra (Giggs 57), Solskjaer, Carrick (Scholes 58), Fletcher, Richardson, Smith (Ronaldo 58), Rooney. Meanwhile, when Warnock’s team came to Old Trafford in the league, he picked an under-strength side on the basis that their first XI would likely lose anyway.
5 min Zaha leaps to flick on and O’Connell, perhaps still groggy, allows the ball across his body; Benteke nips onto it and drives low towards the near post, where Henderson saves.
5 min Nice from Norwood, who breaks up a Palace attack and strides forward … until McArthur hauls him down.
3 min O’Connell feels the blunt side of Benteke’s head, which he nuts with respectable force. There’s a recess while he receives treatment.
2 min There’s a decent row in the ground, but that Allez Allez Allez song, currently getting an airing, is one of the worst I’ve ever heard. Whatever happened to originality?
1 min Right away, United press high and McGoldrick wins a throw deep inside the Palace half. They get it away, but that was a statement of intent from the home side.
Ashley Cole just used the word “tumped” on live TV. We are back in good old 1995!
Is Tasty Jerk, next door to Slehurst Park, the greatest football eating place? Shout also to the Vine, near the Hawthorns.
It’s warming up at Bramall Lane, and the players are tunnelled…
“I think there will be many more penalties in the coming season, not just because of VAR, but also because of the rule changes,” says Jon. “Some forwards will deliberately start kicking the ball at any loose defender hands and arms in the area. VAR will also cause minor fouls off the ball to be punished, such as Bayern’s penalty yesterday.”
Yes, agreed – though isn’t the rule change because of VAR? As far as the second element goes, I’d change the penalty law entirely: if an infringement denies a goalscoring opportunity anywhere on the pitch, penalty; in an infringement in the box doesn’t deny a goalscoring opportunity, direct free-kick.
Graeme Souness loves Zaha. I wonder how the rest of his career will pan out – he has the talent to play in the Champions League, but Palace can afford to price him out of moves. That’s got to be annoying, but on the plus side, he’s still handy for Tasty Jerk.
Roy Hodgson says Wilfried Zaha has trained well and that his team need to match United for heart and aggression while remaining calm. He’s looking forward to the atmosphere.
He also says that you need to get bodies out wide to counter United’s overlapping centre-backs – how they combat the inherent problems with the 3-5-2- formation – and that they can’t be in two places at once, which leaves them vulnerable to the counter.
Brian Deane is wearing a light brown three-piece suit – from Burton or River Island, I trust. It’s like the 90s never ended.
Sky’s interviewer just asked Chris Wilder where his head was at. Naturally, he responded with “GOT A TEXT!” so she told him to “stop being so muggy.”
“I’ve been thinking there might actually be more penalties this season,” emails Patrick Cullen, “due to the use of VAR. Can I take it you disagree, or will Palace be using a different penalty taker?”
That’s a good point. I’m sure Palace will be sticking with their man, but perhaps he might do as well for the reason you give.
And I say that as someone who doesn’t like 3-5-2 on the basis that you can’t just forget about the corners of the pitch if you want to be good. But if you want to make it difficult, that’s a different thing.
A hypothesis: for a team seeking to survive, 3-5-2 is the best formation. They don’t get outnumbered in midfield, they’ve got two strikers to take advantage of any attacking aggro they can cause, and the men to defend the box. If a team is good enough to go around the sides and between wing-back and centre-back, so be it.
Funnily enough, the Shamen perpetrated one of my linguistic hates, in Ebeneezer Goode. This verse is an absolute bazzer … except for the bit where “mischievous” becomes “mischievious”.
“You can see that he’s mischievous, mysterious and devious
When he circulates amongst the people in the place
But once you know he’s fun, and something of a genius
He gives a grin that goes around from face to face to face
Backwards and then forwards, forwards and then backwards
‘Eezer is the geezer who loves to muscle in
That’s about the time the crowd all shout the name of ‘Eezer
As he’s kotcheled in the corner, laughing by the bass bin.”
“Are we to expect The Shamen and the Sky Strikers at half-time,” wonders Gary Naylor. Mr C is busy, so I believe they’ve hired Marcus Brigstocke.
Sky have just shown some of this little ripper (yes, caveats, but a ripper nonetheless).
Simple enough teams, then: United are unchanged, while Palace bring back Zaha, who replaces Ayew.
Sheffield United (an unarguable 3-5-2): Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick, Robinson. Subs: Moore, Jagielka, Osborn, Besic, Sharp, McBurnie, Freeman.
Crystal Palace (a Paulo Coelho-influenced 4-4-2): Guaita; Ward, Kelly, Dann, Van Aanholt; Townsend, McArthur, Milijoevic, Meyer; Benteke, Zaha. Subs: Hennessey, Cahill, Schlupp, McCarthy, Kouyate, Wickham, Ayew.
Football is about so many things beyond football that to bang on about football sometimes feels gauche. Most of the time, the 90 minutes are a disappointment, and we don’t keep coming back on the off-chance that this time they won’t be.
As such, how well a team does or doesn’t do isn’t the most important thing about it, so to chunter about Sheffield United finally being back in the Premier League is to ignore the multitude of other things going on, both at Bramall Lane and elsewhere. Except Sheffield United being back in the Premier League is a huge deal, and today is a huge fixture.
Like most promoted sides, their principal goal is to avoid relegation, and Billy Sharp’s late equaliser last weekend earned them a crucial point in that regard. Now, this week, they have a home fixture which comes with its own cliche: “The kind of game you have to win if you want to stay up”.
They’ve a decent chance of doing it. Chris Wilder clearly knows something, and because he has kept faith with the players who achieved promotion, his team are grooved and confident. They know what they’re doing, and trust themselves to pull it off effectively.
Palace, meanwhile, look a little wobbly. Though they opened the season with a creditable goalless draw against Everton, over the summer they lost Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Wilfried Zaha, their two best players, physically and spiritually respectively – so need to find a quick solution.
Chances are, Zaha will quickly revert to his old self, but Roy Hodgson’s back four has the aroma of Nationwide, and it seems unlikely that Luka Milivojevic, last season’s top scorer, might again be afforded the 10 penalties which made that happen. Defeat today will say very bad things about their prospects.
Kick-off: 2pm BST