Full-time: Sheffield United 3 Burnley 0

Midfielders Ashley Westwood and Jack Cork look dejected as the Clarets concede against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
Midfielders Ashley Westwood and Jack Cork look dejected as the Clarets concede against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

Sheffield United's system can only really be compared to an optical illusion, and the Clarets were dumbfounded by it at Bramall Lane.

It really was a head-scratcher, like the viral video that gives the impression that you can generate infinite chocolate.

Chris Wilder's Blades are implementing a shape that's quite unique to the Premier League and it's having the desired effect.

Operating a 3-5-2 formation is nothing out of the ordinary, but it's the nuances within that shape which makes it so difficult to combat.

The overlapping centre-backs are a revelation, productive in both stretching the play and negating opposition full backs and wide players.

They have that capability of making it seem like they're carrying an extra man, whichever area of the pitch the ball drops in.

George Baldock and Enda Stevens both ghosted in to areas of the pitch that were underpopulated and the three middle man - captain Oliver Norwood, John Lundstram and John Fleck - were the linchpins for the home side's success.

Like a magnetic field, Sean Dyche's side played in to United's hands, drawn to the pocket of the pitch where the ball was in play.

Everybody shifted left early on when Baldock delivered the cross, leaving David McGoldrick in space.

However, on this occasion, the visitors escaped scott free as the striker missed the target.United weren't so forgiving, though, in the 17th minute as they took the lead.

Stevens cut out Matt Lowton - who endured a miserable return to South Yorkshire - and Lys Mousset's run drew Ben Mee and Erik Pieters to the near post.The 23-year-old, signed from AFC Bournemouth, flicked the ball on, leaving Lundstram free to tuck the ball home at the near post.

The Clarets were being outsmarted and outworked in every area of the pitch, but they were nearly handed a way back in to the game.Jack O'Connell's arm clearly made contact with Dwight McNeil's cross, which saw referee Simon Hooper consult VAR.

But when a conclusion was reached, play was allowed to continue, presumably because the defender's arm was engaged in a natural position.

United's second was like a carbon copy of their opener. Stevens was away from O'Connell's pass down the left hand side, Mousset again drew his markers away, getting a touch to the ball in the process, and Lundstram, unmanned, converted at the far post.

And just before the interval the Blades scored a third - the first time they'd achieved that feat in the first half of a top flight fixture in 26 years.

James Tarkowski was caught out in possession by Mousset, the Frenchman's pass released John Fleck in to space and the midfielder picked out the bottom corner with a polished finish.

Burnley improved after the break, but the damage had already been inflicted. United were happy to tuck in, stay compact, and catch the Clarets on the counter when the opportunity arose.

Stevens almost added a fourth, with a block from Tarkowski sparing any further embarrassment, and the Burnley centre back almost reduced the deficit when forcing Dean Henderson in to his first save of the afternoon from Ashley Westwood's set-piece.

Substitute Billy Sharp was denied by Nick Pope's outstretched leg when McGoldrick broke through the middle and the England international had to be alert to beat away Lundstram's drive later on.

The 25-year-old former Blackpool man almost completed his hat-trick late on, but, from Sharp's pass, he pulled his effort wide of the far post.