We may be living in unprecedented times, but I don’t think anyone was expecting that!
A brilliant performance for NUFC, with goals from Saint-Maximin, Matt Ritchie and Joelinton handing us a convincing 3-0 win over Sheffield Utd.
Here’s an assessment of each player’s performance along with our marks out of 10:
Dubravka – 6 – This mark out of 10 may seem harsh, but it’s hard to give anything higher when he barely had a thing to do! Made the odd punch clear early on, but with the Blades having just ONE shot on target all afternoon, the usually busy Slovakian was a mere spectator here for the most part! A nice change for him and a THIRD Premier League clean sheet on the spin nonetheless.
Manquillo – 7 – Tidy in possession and kept attacking wing-back Enda Stevens extremely quiet, with so few Sheffield Utd attacks coming down his side. Wasn’t challenged defensively, but made a few decent overlapping runs at the other end to give Matt Ritchie an outlet down our right-hand side. Was caught ball watching on one occasions, giving Billy Sharp a big chance that he fortunately put wide, but it was another solid showing from the Spaniard on the whole! Deserves a new deal and his place in Steve Bruce’s starting XI.
Lascelles – 7 – Headed out just about everything Sheffield Utd threw into our box. Booked in the second half for a cynical foul but dealt with most things a blunt Sheffield Utd attack threw at him.
Fernandez – 7 – Read the danger well and was typically solid and no nonsense in everything he did. Many want to see Fabian Schar start each week, but the reliable Argentine doesn’t deserve to be dropped anytime soon!
Rose – 7 – For all the talk of him piling on the weight over lockdown, I thought he looked in decent nick today, recovering well from a tough first 15 minutes. Most of Sheffield United’s attacks came down his side early on, but he and Saint-Maxmin combined well to keep them at bay. Nothing spectacular, but was solid positionally and deserves credit for the lung bursting overlap he made to give Ritchie space to fire past Henderson in the second half.
Hayden – 9 – Absolutely outstanding, arguably being one of the unsung heroes in today’s convincing win. Made several perfectly timed sliding tackles to cut out Sheffield Utd attacks, tracked runners well and shielded our defence expertly – something which allowed Shelvey to get forward that bit more as a result. He was superb today!
Shelvey – 8 – An energetic and measured display from the midfielder here. Played some nice cross field balls into the final third early on and had a wicked shot well blocked midway through the first half. It was also good to see him making some good forward runs and supporting attacks, suggesting he’s both fit and been given some more license to get forward. Great to see him looking more mobile, eager to get forward and less wasteful on the ball.
Ritchie – 8.5 – I was keen to see Lazaro start instead before kick-off, feeling Ritchie hasn’t always done enough in recent games, however he proved me wrong in some style here! Played a key role in Saint-Maximin’s opener and smashed home a brilliant goal of his own too, with his fierce strike flying past Henderson to make sure of the 3 points. Worked hard as ever, never shirked his defensive duties and linked up with Manquillo well. An influential display to prove he still has life in him yet as a Premier League winger!
Almiron – 8 – A constant nuisance all afternoon, with his pace, energy and persistence causing the Sheffield Utd defence real problems – whether it be via dropping into a playmaker role or bursting in behind. Looked more comfortable in a central no.10 role, playing Joelinton clean through for his first big chance and laying on the assist for his late goal.
Saint-Maximin – 9* – The star of the show and my man of the match. He had a bit of defending to do early on down out left-hand side, but didn’t take long to beat a man and make something happen, with his burst of pace and brilliant pass from deep playing a key role in releasing Almiron to set up Joelinton’s early chance. He looked razor sharp all afternoon and used the ball well, with him getting his reward in the second half with a smart finish past Henderson to give us the lead. An outstanding display from the Frenchman, who looked like he had the ball on a piece of string at times. What a talent!
Joelinton – 8 – Made a few decent runs early on and got himself into a few good positions, but made a complete hash of a big chance handed to him via a brilliant Almiron’s through ball early on, scuffing a shot straight at Henderson. That said, he never gave up and continued to give us a presence up top, with his persistence and power proving key in John Egan’s second half red card. His move from zero to hero was then complete late on, with his clever ball out wide, bursting run and neat finish giving him his first Premier League goal at St James’ Park! The early miss will worry a few fans, but he showed better movement, was a handful all afternoon and scored that all important goal which will hopefully do his low confidence levels the world of good! Well done big man!
Carroll – Replaced Joelinton with 10 minutes to play. Put himself about as ever and held the ball up pretty well.
Bentaleb – Came on for Saint-Maximin and slotted into midfield nicely. Nothing special, but looked neat and tidy in the final stages.
Lazaro – Replaced Almiron on 85 minutes and played down the right for the final 8 minutes of the game. A few nice touches but didn’t really get a chance to impose himself on the game.
Schar – Appeared to play in midfield for the final 10 minutes or so. Got stuck in.
Yedlin – Replaced Ritchie in stoppage time.