They may have suffered defeat at Walsall on Saturday, but Sheffield United still sit top of the League One table, six points above the play-off spots. And the acquisition of Manchester United’s Joe Riley on loan suggests they’re staying at the top.
The left-back is among the brightest prospects on United’s books, and impressed during a pair of appearances for the senior side last season, including a starring role in the 5-1 demolition of FC Midtjylland in the Europa League.
He’s continued to develop in the Red Devils’ youth setup this season, playing 11 times for the club’s reserve side – with his displays unsurprisingly catching the eye of Football League sides, especially following a superb goal against Tottenham in late October.
But with opportunities sparse under new boss Jose Mourinho, the move to Bramall Lane looks to be a smart one for all parties.
For the Blades part, they’ve acquired a tremendously skilful, energetic and reliable full-back, whose creativity and pace are sure to cause huge problem for League One’s defences.
Meanwhile, the 20-year-old can boost his own development with first-team football – and helping a club of Sheffield United’s stature to return to the second-tier would certainly be an eye-catching addition to the youngster’s CV.
With fixtures coming thick and fast, it also makes sense for current first-choice left-back Danny Lafferty to be rotated. And Riley would certainly make a better alternative than the out-of-favour Chris Hussey.
Having now conceded seven goals in their last three games, this is the ideal time and area for boss Chris Wilder to strengthen, and could prove the difference come the end of the season.
Next up for Sheffield United is the visit of Gillingham on Saturday, with the South Yorkshire club 4/11 to win a ninth home game in 10.
Meanwhile, the bookies are confident of promotion for the Blades (1/10), while there’s also 1/2 on offer for them to finish top of the pile. If Riley hits the ground running, those odds could soon shorten even further.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing