Sheffield United hero Carl Asaba has lauded current striker Oli McBurnie amid his blistering return to form in recent weeks.
McBurnie went 42 matches without a league goal for Sheffield United, a run stretching back to December 2020 and the Blades’ second season in the top flight. The attacker’s 2021-22 campaign was disrupted by Covid, a dead leg and a foot injury.
But he also put in plenty of sub-par performances, which saw him go the entire term without finding the net in the league. His only goal came in a Carabao Cup third round defeat to Derby County.
McBurnie’s form was of major concern to manager Paul Heckingbottom. This is because the forward remains one of the most expensive buys for Sheffield United in recent years, as he cost a reported £20million when joining from Swansea.
Luckily for everyone involved with the Blades, McBurnie is back amongst the goals. He ended his goal drought with a first-time volley in the 1-1 draw with Luton Town.
And the Scot has bagged goals against Reading and Hull City since then, making it three goals in his last three outings.
McBurnie is now ahead of fellow big-money signing Rhian Brewster in Heckingbottom’s pecking order. Now it is Brewster who is wondering when his next league strike may arrive.
Asaba, who registered 24 goals in 63 matches for United, has heaped praise on McBurnie. Asaba thinks the 26-year-old is looking like ‘a perfect number nine’.
Oli McBurnie ‘basically a perfect number nine’ – Asaba
“Three in three, transformed striker,” Asaba said on Blades Heaven (via Sheffield United News). “You know last season much maligned, this season full of energy, constant threat, basically a perfect number nine.
“I’m just so delighted for him. He’s worked his socks off, great character and he’s a great lad.
“Last season I was protecting him and justifying him. He doesn’t look like he was just being asked to score goals. He was being asked to protect the ball.
“Whether that’s a hangover from the Premier League because you keep the ball and if you don’t the opposition score. In the Championship he was keeping it and not looking a threat. He looks determined to score.”
McBurnie is finally looking like the striker who convinced United to spend £20m on him three years ago.
He looks stronger, fitter and more deadly than he has ever been in the famous red and white shirt.
Both Heckingbottom and the player himself say his improved fitness is down to extra gym sessions at home. Therefore, you’ve got to give most of the plaudits to McBurnie for turning his situation around.
Heckingbottom must also be praised for remaining patient with the Leeds-born star. He knew the striker would come good, it was just a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.
And United seem to have fallen upon the perfect recipe for success, which could ultimately mean promotion back to the Prem.
McBurnie is leading the line, while Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge are providing the creativity and support just behind.
Few United fans would have put Oli McBurnie in their preferred starting eleven at the start of the season. But this shows just how far he has come.
The player, who has won 17 caps for Scotland, will be aiming to match his 2018-19 form. He managed 22 goals in 42 Championship matches for Swansea prior to moving to Bramall Lane that summer.