United's U21s slipped to a narrow defeat against an experienced Crystal Palace side at Selhurst Park on Tuesday night.
The Blades fielded a youthful team, with George Willis, Connor Dimaio and Louis Reed all featuring, whilst the Eagles included several players with first-team experience. Goalkeeper Lewis Price, former skipper Paddy McCarthy, Owen Garvan and Jerome Thomas all played 90 minutes.
A closely fought encounter was settled by a Jerome Binnom-Williams header from Thomas's corner 15 minutes from time, although Ben Whiteman had a goal ruled out for offside as the visitors tried in vain to rescue a point.
The first-half was an evenly-contested affair in terms of possession but there was little in terms of goalmouth action during the opening half-hour. Otis Khan forced Price to push a testing effort past the post eight minutes in, whilst at the other end Jake Gray almost found a way past George Willis but the goalkeeper produced a timely
After Palace skipper Connor Dymond had seen his goal chalked off for a foul, United nearly went into the break with a lead, only for Whiteman to see his long-range effort rattle the crossbar with Price scrambling back.
In the 47th minute the hosts should have scored, only to be denied by the superb reactions of Willis. Thomas advanced down the left and whipped in an inviting cross for Jake Gray, but United's number one made a tremendous reflex save diving away to his right.
Thomas and Garvan were then denied by the impressive Willis, whilst at the other end Price had to be alert to deny Reed and Dimaio in quick succession.
Ultimately the game was decided from a set-piece in the 75th minute. Thomas delivered a dangerous in-swinging corner from the left and defender BINNOM-WILLIAMS rose highest to head past Willis.
United's response was immediate, but the offside flag cruelly denied Whiteman an equaliser. Palace nearly added a second, which would have been unfair on the Blades, but Sullay Kaikai saw his thunderous effort hit the woodwork.
On the narrow loss, the Blades first of the season, Development Coach Travis Binnion remarked: "We played well against a much more experienced team, who had several players trying to impress to watching Neil Warnock.
"In Louis Reed and Connor Dimaio we had the best two performers on the pitch. Khan and Coustrain were lively down the flanks and Dan Cockerline held his own for long periods against Paddy McCarthy.
"George Willis had to be at his best on occasions, but the lads felt they didn't deserve to lose and I would share those sentiments.
"It was another important learning curve for the youngsters though and it is just disappointing the game was lost from a set-piece."
Blades: Willis, Paling, Scarisbrick, Dimaio, Berry, Whiteman, Khan, Reed, Cockerline, Calvert-Lewin (Hamilton 61), Coustrain (Kedman 82).
Unused: Kelly, Ramsdale, Hinchliffe.