Chris Wilder's dreams of a Blades win in his first game as Blades boss were dashed by an impressive first half strike from Jay Spearing.
The Bolton midfielder's volley from outside the box was enough to separate the teams and the Blades suffered an opening day defeat for the third year in succession.
Chief Wilder's first competitive Blades team included all seven of his summer signings in the squad, six starting and one on the bench. Skipper Sharp and Clarke were selected to lead the front line. Bolton's team saw former Blade Howard start in goal. A total of 4,357 Unitedites made the trip to the Macron Stadium.
The opening ten minutes were all about free-kicks into the area from dangerous positions. United repelled two from Spearing and then one from Hussey on eight minutes saw Clarke head wide at the back post.
Another Hussey delivery, on 13 minutes, was across the face of goal but evaded Sharp and Clarke, whilst a neat, quick move involving Brayford, Sharp and Duffy only earned a corner as the Blades looked to get on top.
Twice Basham was crowded as he positioned himself into a dangerous position and following a break, Duffy flashed across Howard's goal.
Bolton attempted to use the long throw to their advantage on a couple of occasions and Brayford needed treatment for a head injury after one such launch into the box.
It was from another long throw that Bolton opened the scoring on 37 minutes. Wilson's delivery was half-cleared by Duffy but SPEARING volleyed into the corner from 25 yards.
Soon after Madine headed a Spearing free-kick wide but the home side, after having the better of the middle section of the half and taking advantage with a goal, protected Howard well for the remainder of the half.
Early in the second half a 35-yard Fleck effort was blocked and both Hussey and O'Connell put in crosses from the left that put Bolton onto the back foot.
The Blades made the better start to the second half and on 56 minutes Howard was forced to push over a Done header after Clarke initially won Hussey's cross and minutes later Sharp had the ball in the net but he was adjudged offside from Brayford's pass.
There was a frantic pace to the second half and another long throw almost undid United. On 64 minutes Moxey hurled into the box and Pratley got a run on his marker but Long pushed away the free header.
Wilder made a double substitution with Adams and Scougall replacing Done and Duffy but a drop in tempo coincided with a lack of chances, at both ends.
With around ten minutes to go, and with Bolton already having made their three changes, Pratley was hurt in a challenge with Clarke and was stretchered off.
The late pressure was, expectedly, coming from the Blades. A 30-yard Fleck free-kick was deflected wide and the Scotsman had two more shots inside the next 90 seconds but Howard was not tested.
Sharp fired over from 20 yards and due to injuries, six minutes of added time was indicated. Bolton were happy to surrender possession to United away from their goal but the visitors were unable to force a late chance, despite a corner in the closing seconds.
Bolton: Howard, Buxton, Moxey, Beevers, Vela, Taylor (Davies 60), Spearing (Trotter 76), Madine (Proctor 72), Pratley, Wilson, Wheater.
Unused: Amos, Derik, Walker, Woolery.
Blades: Long, Brayford, Hussey, Fleck, O'Connell, Basham, Sharp, Done (Adams 67), Wilson, Duffy (Scougall 67), Clarke.
Unused: McNulty, Ramsdale, Wright, Coutts, K Wallace.