What Burnley fans should expect from pass master Sander Berge following Sheffield United switch
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The Norwegian midfielder has been a key man for the Blades over the last three-and-a-half years, scoring 15 times in 109 appearances.
Having also lost Ilimian Ndiaye to Marseille, Paul Heckingobttom’s men are now severely weakened following last season’s automatic promotion alongside the Clarets.
As for Burnley, they’ve bolstered an area of the pitch where they’ve been looking to strengthen all summer in midfield, with Berge now providing competition for the likes of Josh Cullen and Josh Brownhill.
To get more of an insight into the 25-year-old, the Burnley Express spoke to Danny Hall, football writer for our sister paper, the Sheffield Star, to get the full lowdown.
What sort of midfielder is Berge? And what can Burnley fans expect from him?
Berge as a player has changed a lot since he first arrived at Bramall Lane. He was a sitting midfielder, the type they call 'a number six' these days for whatever reason, in Belgium and for Norway but played on the right of United's midfield three when he first arrived in England, getting involved much more going forward.
He scored an excellent goal at home to Spurs after lockdown when he ghosted into the box and found the bottom corner and after a bad injury in the second Premier League season which kept him out for a while, he came alive again in the Championship after Paul Heckingbottom was appointed.
Berge was utilised higher up the pitch and his size, underappreciated strength and previously-unseen turn of pace made him a very difficult proposition for second-tier defences to cope with.
What are his main strengths and weaknesses?
He is excellent at handling the ball and doing the simple things so well. I can't remember a badly-weighted pass he made during his time at United.
He just seemed to have that bit of extra time than anyone else on the pitch, very rarely looking uncomfortable even in the most uncomfortable-looking situations and when he was unshackled he looked dangerous.
He isn't a huge tackler, despite his stature, and not as good in the air as you'd perhaps expect a player of his size to be and the main criticism from United fans seems to be around consistency.
But as one of United's main men often the focus of opponents was on shackling him, so there was always going to be a few quiet games along the way.
How did he take to Premier League football the last time Sheffield United were in the top flight?
I remember interviewing him after his debut away at Crystal Palace and he was absolutely blowing, taken aback by the intensity of Premier League football but he quickly adjusted physically.
Two hamstring injuries and a bad dose of Covid-19 apart, his availability record was excellent, regularly playing twice or three times a week in the Championship and almost never being taken off.
He also seemed to really buy into life at United as well, getting to know the club's history, and above all just loves talking football to anyone who will listen.
What has been the reaction from Blades fans to this news?
The reaction amongst fans has not been a good one. After selling Iliman Ndiaye, Berge was United's best player and the prospect of losing him three days before the season, especially to a potential rival in Burnley, has not gone down well.
Much of that anger centres around frustration at United's transfer struggles this summer but it will be a genuine shame to see Berge move on, in my view.
He was out of contract next summer so it makes sense from that point of view, but there is a sense around United that it should never, with both Berge and Ndiaye, have got this far.