The last time Internazionale visited Bramall Lane it was to play non-league Sheffield FC in celebration of their 150th anniversary.
It saw the likes of Mario Balotelli and Marco Matterazzi, who had won the 2006 World Cup final with Italy sixteen months earlier, put on a show in front of a 19,000 crowd.
Even Pele was in attendance.
Eleven years later and the Nerazzurri stepped on to the hallowed turf again, this time to face Chris Wilder’s United outfit in a game that certainly doesn’t happen all that often.
While it was a teenage Balotelli and co wandering around the Peace Gardens in November 2007, it was the likes of captain Mauro Icardi and new signing Lautaro Martinez who showcased their talent in the city this time around.
And while the two clubs are preparing for what will be two very different seasons – Inter in the Champions League and the Blades trying to build on last term’s return to the Championship – it was a good test, and a suitable occasion, nonetheless.
With Inter fielding ten first-teamers in their starting eleven, including a player in Antonio Candreva who appeared for Italy in the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016, it was clear Luciano Spalletti was perhaps taking this as seriously as he knew Wilder would.
While the score-line wasn’t the 5-2 thrashing that Inter inflicted on Sheffield FC, it was a well-deserved 1-1 draw for the Blades, with the performance pleasing Wilder in the aftermath.
Inter were dealt an early blow, though, as Dalbert was stretchered off after colliding heavily with John Lundstram in a 50/50 challenge. Maj Roric was the man tasked with replacing him as Inter looked to play out the back at every opportunity.
For all their expansive play, Inter were almost outdone by a set-piece routine as Lee Evans, celebrating his 24th birthday, whipped in for Jack O’Connell to send his header over at the back post.
While pre-season is as much about clocking miles on the pitch than it is about results, the Blades would’ve been proud with how they contained such a stellar side in the opening period, restricting the three times Champions League winners to long-range efforts that Dean Henderson held on to well.
Two minutes shy of the half-hour mark and David McGoldrick, after signing on a free transfer earlier in the day, introduced himself to the Bramall Lane faithful in one of the best ways imaginable.
John Fleck played a neat one-two with Enda Stevens on the left before rolling a ball through to the new signing who effortlessly chipped Samir Handanovic to break the deadlock.
If you’re going to score your first goal for the club, scoring it against a keeper who has 81 international caps for Slovenia is not a bad thing, pre-season or not.
But United were made to work after Icardi swept home seven minutes later.
Martinez used the outside of his foot to send a delicious through ball to Candreva who pulled it back for Icardi to tap in, a sign that the Nerazzurri weren’t to give up that easily.
And Icardi almost gave the visitors the lead before half-time when his crisp effort was curling into the far corner but for the outstretched hand of Henderson being there to bat it away and keep it level. He may have netted 29 Serie A goals last season, but he was denied by the 21-year-old Manchester United loanee who plays with a maturity beyond his years.
That would be Henderson’s last involvement, however, as he was replaced by Simon Moore at half-time as the shot-stopper began his return from injury.
Other substitutions began to disrupt the game as fans were soon reminded that this was still a pre-season fixture, but as Inter’s superior fitness showed it became an even more crucial run-out ahead of the season opener a week on Saturday.
The game stretched and United looked a little leggy but Inter struggled to carve many chances despite their intricate build-up play.
United almost fashioned a chance when substitute Billy Sharp wriggled free of Andrea Ranocchia’s grasp before stinging the gloves of Handanovic.
With no goals in the second-half it remained 1-1 at the full-time whistle.
With 18,883 fans in attendance, who said pre-season doesn’t matter?
Sheffield United starting eleven: Henderson; Basham, O’Connell, Egan; Baldock, Fleck, Lundstram, Evans, Stevens; Clarke (C), McGoldrick. Subs on: Moore (46’), Duffy (61’), Holmes (71’), Stearman (71’), Sharp (79’), Freeman (79’). Subs not used: Lavery, Norrington-Davis.
Inter Milan starting eleven: Handanovic, Gagliardini, De Vrij, Icardi (C), Martinez, Asamoah, Dalbert, D’Ambrosio, Skriniar, Emmers, Candreva. Subs on: Roric (10’), Zappa (63’), Ranocchia (69’), Colidio (78’), Gavolio (78’), Pompetti (88’). Subs not used: Dekic, D’Amico, Nolan, Demirovic, Berni (GK), Padelli (GK).
Referee: Peter Banks
Goals: Sheffield United: David McGoldrick (28’)
Inter Milan: Mauro Icardi (35’)
Bookings: Sheffield United: None
Inter Milan: None
Sent off: Sheffield United: None
Inter Milan: None
HT score: 1-1
FT score: 1-1
Man of the Match: David McGoldrick (Sheffield United)