Chris Wilder hailed Billy Sharp as ‘Mr Sheffield United’ after the striker stepped off the bench to grab a late leveller at Bournemouth.
United’s Premier League return looked set to end in disappointment following Chris Mepham’s first goal for the Cherries.
But boyhood Blades fan Sharp, top scorer during last season’s promotion-winning season, scrambled an 88th-minute equaliser following a free-kick to force a deserved 1-1 draw at the Vitality Stadium.
“He was always going to come on when we you’re chasing the game but I thought the contribution of all the players was outstanding,” Blades boss Wilder said of 33-year-old Sharp.
“We were bold in terms of trying to get back in the game.
“We felt that it was coming and we were nice and bright on a free-kick. You’re thinking, ‘Who do you want floating about in that area?’, it’s Mr Sheffield United and I’m delighted for him.
“Disappointed to go behind but yet again not surprised by the way my team came roaring back. I think it was the right result.
“There is always going to be apprehension in our play, none of these boys have played at this level.
“When the bullets start flying on the first day, we have to get on with it and learn and quickly grow and I thought we did.”
Sharp, who been on the pitch for six minutes after replacing defender Chris Basham, celebrated wildly in front of the sold-out away following.
Wilder, whose side had the better opportunities before Mepham broke the deadlock in the 62nd minute, revealed his team had an unexpected encounter with some of the travelling supporters outside a pub earlier in the day.
“It was important that today wasn’t a sightseeing trip for us, it wasn’t a day out, it wasn’t, ‘We’ve got to the Premier League so let’s just enjoy it’,” said Wilder.
“They (the fans) ambushed us on our walk through Bournemouth city centre this morning, all piled out of a boozer about 11 o’clock, so that was a bit of an experience for some of the boys.
“Delighted for them and everybody connected to the football club, it’s been a long time that they’ve been out of the division.”
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe admitted his team were below par but felt they should have held on to their narrow lead.
Howe, who handed a debut to former Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale ahead of experienced options Artur Boruc and Asmir Begovic, said: “Really frustrated because we didn’t play at our best today, I think we are well aware of that but we had the lead.
“We’d fought really hard to get that lead and we just didn’t get over the line – small details have cost us today.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve switched off from the free-kick because I think we were alert but we just didn’t make the right decisions with our positioning and we paid the price.
“It’s not the ideal start for us, we’d hoped to perform better and to win.
“But you have to take what you are given and take your lessons and learn from it quickly.”
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