It had the smell of a big game and often big games lead to nerves and conservatism, more especially with both sides reeling after sobering starts to the league season and heavily backed for a campaign of toil.
Here, there was entertainment aplenty. They had to settle for a point apiece as they got on the board after blanks in their previous three top-flight games in 2023-24.
For United, they could have been basking in the glory of victory.
The last action of the game saw Oli McBurnie’s downward header tipped onto the woodwork by Jordan Pickford, with the England keeper blocking his follow-on.
The whistle blew and two of the game’s characters embraced.
There was good news and not so good news here for the Blades. But the glass should be half-full.
The good news saw Cameron Archer display just why Sheffield United forked out £18m to sign him. His 33rd-minute leveller to cancel out Abdoulaye Doucoure’s 14th-minute opener was the mark of a craftsman.
His stamp of quality also saw his similarly exquisite strike just before the break go in after rebounding off the head of Jordan Pickford, after hitting the post.
Archer whet the appetite. At the back, it was hard going. United were stretched for a fair part of proceedings.
The impressive Arnaut Danjuma would level early in the second half for Everton. It looked like it might go the way of the Merseysiders.
United hung on, without being overly convincing, defensively.
A first point of the season has currency, mind. For both sides. Although Everton will probably be the more dispirited.
United’s main hope came from Archer and Gus Hamer, who were excellent in their own way.
Without a league goal they may have been this season, but it was Everton who made the more polished start, even if the first half-chance came to United.
Jarrad Branthwaite was booked for a clumsy challenge on Hamer down the right and Oli Norwood’s floating free-kick found John Egan, whose header was gathered easily by Jordan Pickford.
Hamer looked to possess the chief threat for the Blades going forward, but Everton had quality of their own with their midfield triumvirate of Doucoure, Idrissa Gueye and Amadou Onana soon announcing themselves.
A fine axis between Hamer and Archer - two players who will be pivotal to United’s fortunes in 23-24 - saw the latter briefly in the clear. He prevaricated and James Tarkowski made an excellent covering tackle.
It was an important moment, not too long after, the Merseysiders went in front.
A warning saw £30m Beto, fresh from his devastating cameo at Doncaster, see his shot deflect off Jack Robinson and fly just wide. From the resulting corner, the hosts fell behind in lamentable fashion.
Ashley Young’s outswinger saw Onana beat Vini Souza too easily in the air. As United’s backline dozed off, Doucoure nipped in front of George Baldock to steer the ball home from close range - the softest of concessions from the Blades.
It was Everton’s first league goal for 316 minutes.
United looked susceptible at the back and through the middle of midfield and Everton found too much joy and home fans soon got grumpy.
Doucoure played in Danjuma, but Egan got a telling last-ditch block.
Hamer, the one most likely for United, then tested Pickford at his near post, with a well-struck low drive saved in the nick of time by England’s number one, but most of the action was towards the Shoreham Street End which the hosts were defending.
Fortunately, United’s big-money purchases soon took matters into their own hands - and profited.
Hamer’s dangerous cross from the right found McBurnie, who expertly teed up Archer, whose first-time curler was clinical.
Everton regrouped with Wes Foderingham going out to gather at the feet of the threatening Danjuma with Beto the supplier - before Archer announced himself again.
Gathering the ball in a central position around 25 yards out, he took aim and his sweet curler cannoned off the post before hitting the back of Pickford’s head and nestling in the net.
It ensured a happy mood for Unitedites at the break. While the talk will have been about the input of Archer and Hamer, to a lesser extent, the defence was the worry.
It was reinforced on the restart when Anel Ahmedhodzic, troubled at the back, tugged back Danjuma, with it deemed to be just about the box after the Blues forward was in the clear following Beto’s quality flick.
Soon after, the influential Danjuma had something to shout about, tucking the ball away at the far post after a fine low cross by Nathan Patterson, with the move started by the dominant Beto.
It was looking ominous for United, albeit in a game that had ebbed and flowed from one end of the pitch to the other.
United did go close when Hamer saw his follow-up effort blocked after substitute Luke Thomas had been denied by Pickford following a deep Baldock cross from the right.
McBurnie nearly brought the house down. A point it was.
Sheffield United: Foderingham; Ahmedhodzic, Egan (Basham 68), Robinson; Baldock, Souza, Norwood, Hamer, Larouchi (Thomas 68); McBurnie, Archer (Traore 75). Unused substitutes: Davies, Trusty, Bogle, Slimane, Osula.
Everton: Pickford; Patterson, Tarkowski (Godfrey 90), Branthwaite, Young; Garner (McNeil 74), Gueye, Onana, Danjuma; Doucoure; Beto. Unused substitutes: Virginia, Mykolenko, Chermiti, Lonergan, Onyango.
Referee: A Madley (West Yorkshire).